Archive for Trust

The Road to San Miguel

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..and…a time to kill.”-The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3 NIV)

“The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”– Laurence J. Peter

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”– Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:43-44 NIV)

The island of Cozumel, Mexico lies twelve miles out to sea, almost within eyeshot of the Yucatan Peninsula. The bright lights of Cancun are visible as a glow from just below the horizon on a clear night. I once vacationed close to the southern tip of the island, far from the lone city of San Miguel. To access civilization, we risked our lives on the only road that runs the western length of the island, hacked out of the jungle and dotted with construction zones that demanded our undivided attention.

In the States, our detours are clearly marked by flashing signs, orange cones, and workers in reflective vests. On Cozumel, road closures are denoted by smudge pots: 55 gallon drums of burning refuse that signal a detour by smoke and fire. No second chances, no “merge in one mile.” If you barrel past the barricade, brace yourself for a world of hurt: a broken axle, a flat tire, or a headfirst plunge into a sinkhole. Better to skid to a stop and go slowly around than tackle the smudge pot head-on. As much as I like the beaches in Mexico, I’ll take my Colorado highways any day.

Just a few weeks ago, I was navigating a reasonably smooth road with Jesus when, out of the darkness, a barrel of burning refuse appeared on the bridge between me and my family in Florida. If you read my post on July 24 (One Fell Out of the Cuckoo’s Nest), you know my family basket has more nuts than fruit. In the years since my childhood, since my father died, even since my brother Matt died, I’ve prayed with all my heart for more than an uneasy peace; I’ve hoped for a healthy reunion of the three remaining adults. Now the news of a family betrayal has rendered that hope impossible. I skidded to a stop at the barricade, heartbroken that the other two made a pact that would turn their backs on me forever.

Needless to say, my first impulse was to kick over smudge pot at the base of the bridge, igniting the pylons and illuminating the night sky with my outrage and grief. I wanted to see it go up in flames. I wanted to sever the connection once and for all. Killing any chance at reconciliation would prevent them from ever breaking my heart again. Only one obstacle stood in the way. For years I’ve asked Jesus to walk ahead of me on the span between here and Florida. Now He won’t leave.

“I’m crossing this bridge for you. Just pray and wait. Here’s a list of things to do until you hear from Me. This should keep you busy.”

“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:26-27 NIV)

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)

“Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12 NIV)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Well isn’t that just like Jesus! My heart is broken, and the bond is severed. Jesus, get off the bridge! The flames are burning on my end and that’s the way I want it. I’ve had enough. Please come over to this side and help me move on with my life. I need You.

“Do you not remember pleading with Me on your family’s behalf? Besides, look where you are standing. Like it or not, they are still your family. You are still on the bridge. I’m not asking you to do anything but pray and wait. Acting in haste and anger will only fuel the flames even as you set your own feet on fire. You prayed that I would work this out for their good and My glory. Do you trust Me enough to let go of them and allow Me to work? Do you love Me enough to surrender your hurt? I know how it feels to be betrayed. I love you and have your best interests at heart. This will probably take a while, but trust Me.”

With that, He turned and walked into the darkness on His way to Florida.

With the sunrise came on onshore breeze, scattering the ashes from last night’s blaze. I’ve decided to wait and pray, one day at a time. After all, I’d hate to set my feet on fire.

Saddle Up, Bifocals in Place, Lock and Load

There is a time for everything, and a season for everything under heaven..and a time to die.– The Teacher (Ecclesiastes 3:2 NIV)

“Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”– John Wayne

I’m thinking of turning my phone off on Sundays. I never expect bad news on Sunday; for me, it’s a day of peace and relaxation, of family and friends. Having a home-based business, I expect phone solicitors and campaign calls during the week, so I gird my loins with FCC regulations and prepare to spout the bad news in their direction. But on Sunday my guard is down, which makes the blow even tougher to absorb.

“Catherine has been badly hurt, and we’ve called Flight For Life.” (Sunday, January 23, 2000)

“Someone you trusted bullied your elderly mother out of her life savings; she is now destitute, infirm, ineligible for Medicaid, and has nowhere to go.” (Sunday, July 25, 2010)

My mouth goes dry and stays that way. My mind spins as I ask all the questions I can think of: Where is she? Where should I go? What should I do? Is she going to be okay? How could this happen?”

Shock overcomes me as I get off the phone, and I shake even as I spring into action. I feel like I’m going to throw up. I can’t stop saying, “Oh God help me, help me, help me God, please help me.”

Obviously, the death of my daughter was by far the most traumatic. It altered the fabric of my being down to the molecular level. After church, Catherine went snowmobiling with her youth group. She drove off the trail by mistake and into a drift. Gunning the engine for speed to escape, she got tangled in a barbed-wire fence buried under the snow. As she plowed forward, it stretched taut across the front of the sled, tighter still, until it snapped over the top and hit her in the face. The force broke her neck, shattered her skull, and destroyed her head below the nose. Thank God she never knew what hit her. She died about fifteen minutes later in the arms of her youth leader, drowning in her own blood on a sunny January afternoon. The day before my birthday, in fact.

For three or four days my mouth was so dry I just couldn’t bear it. Nothing helped. I had to make sure I always had a water bottle and some hard candy with me lest I puke my guts out everywhere I turned.

This past Sunday, the phone rang as I was getting dressed to go to church.

“Rachel, your mama told us not to call you, but things have gotten bad, so we decided to go against her wishes even though she’ll be mad at us.”

Your mama. That’s how they talk down south, in central Florida. If you’ve only been to the beach or the Mouse, you haven’t seen the real Sunshine State. However, if you’re out to lunch and the waitress says, “you wont sweet tae or unsweet tae with thay-at?” you’ve been to Florida. If you flick on your bedroom light and cockroaches the size of your thumb come “a flyin’ atchya,” you’ve been to Florida. That’s where my mama lives.

Last week I told you all (okay, y’all) about Crazy Town. I feel Florida’s oppressive heat and humidity already. Less than twenty-four hours after posting about hurricanes and child abuse, twenty-two hundred miles from the scene of the crime, my guts are back in my throat and I’m frantically searching for bottled water and hard candy. Oh God please help me, please help me.

This is the other kind of death.

We all have them. The little deaths. The realization that a relationship will never be reconciled. A betrayal. The loss of a marriage, or a job, or our health. A reversal of fortune. The death of a dream. Just as no one escapes the final exit, no one is exempt from the little deaths.

We all have ways of coping with our losses.

In Ecclesiastes, the fatalistic Teacher pretty much admonishes the reader to eat dirt and die.
As a man comes, so he departs, and what does he gain since he toils for the wind?
All his days he eats in darkness, with great frustration, affliction and anger.
(Ecclesiastes 5:16b-17 NIV)

As we’ve studied Ecclesiastes, we’ve seen the hopeless attitude of a man, even a privileged man, as he looks through the lens of a finite life. Sorrows, joys, privilege, and squalor- all looked the same to him, because he had no hope. He lived in a world that hadn’t seen Jesus.

As I have stated before, we do not live in a pre-Messiah world. We have a choice of eyewear. We can view our lives through the narrow lens of our little deaths, or we can don the bifocals of faith. Our eyes downcast, we still see our lives as they really are, acknowledging the difficulties and mourning our griefs. But the top lens on a pair of bifocals is for distance vision. We lift our eyes to heaven for the promise of the joy set before us. The apostle Paul wrote these words in his second letter to the Corinthians:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
(II Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

I’m looking forward to this Sunday. The first thing I did last week when the bad news came was to call my pastor. He prayed for me over the phone. Then he went to work and led the congregation in praying for me and my family in our time of need. All week I’ve been receiving phone calls and emails of encouragement. The saints are praying for me. Their intercession doesn’t bounce off the clouds; it storms the gates of heaven on our behalf. I trust and believe that God is working out these circumstances for our good and His glory. I know that my Redeemer lives.

Come back next week for “a time to plant.” I’ll let you know how this is working out.

May God bless and keep you.

The Great Divide

Between Denver and our home on Colorado’s western slope lies the Continental Divide. Since western states are fairly enormous, a distance of 175 miles is an easy morning drive, with views that define the word ‘scenic.’ We soar with eagles over two mountain passes and plunge alongside the rapids through rocky, rugged canyons. In three summer hours we fly along the Interstate, crossing the wild watershed and dropping down into the civilization of Denver. The vast divide is easily conquered.

Winter is another story. When blizzards blow in from the west, the freewheeling road trip of summer becomes a white-knuckle, fasten-your-seatbelt odyssey. The Eisenhower Tunnel, straddling the continental watershed, stands as a blizzard-shrouded sentinel that disappears upward into the clouds. On nail-studded tires we ascend the mountain on solid ice, hoping the driver next to us knows what to do if he goes into a skid. Crossing the Divide in winter takes courage, patience, and God’s grace. We are never quite certain whether or not we will make it. We literally thank God when we do.

When we absolutely must travel to Denver in the snow, we do everything in our power to journey safely. We equip the car with rugged snow tires, ice scraper, washer fluid, food, blankets, flashlight, and water. We pray and head out in the daylight. Then we surrender and trust God with every detail beyond our control: to guide our fellow travelers, for angels to protect us. We do what we can and leave the rest to Him. Sometimes in winter, only God can conquer the Divide.

As I write this, summer is rolling into town. We’ve opened the windows and inhaled the scent of lilacs and freshly-mown grass. We breathe a little easier and even consider driving to Denver for fun! Our summer is short, sweet, but notoriously fickle. Sometimes the calendar says June but the sky threatens snow. Still, we treasure our few shorts weeks of traveling freedom. The geographical gap is easily bridged.

This morning I surveyed the monetary gap that divides the towering stack of bills on my desk from my pitiful, flattened checkbook. Were this a summer of abundance, I’d fly over the Internet Interstate and transfer money from savings to bridge the Great Divide. Problem solved, no need to worry God, let’s go revel in the joys of June! But for us, as for so many others, the recession looms like a late-winter storm over the Colorado high country. Just when you think it’s safe to stick your coat in the closet, the clouds roll in and the snow starts to fly. Better leave the lug nuts fastened and the snow tires mounted. It seems we still can’t get there from here.

I never forget that God created the Continental Divide. It’s just that, sometimes in summer, I forget He’s listening as I head up the hill. Summer or winter, my job is the same- to prepare as best I can, to pray, and to head out in the daylight. Then I am to trust God with every detail beyond my control: to guide my fellow travelers; for angels to protect me. I do what I can and leave the rest to Him. Looking to cross the divides of our lives, whether they be financial, physical, mental, or spiritual, takes patience, courage, and God’s grace. We are never quite certain whether or not we will make it. We literally thank God when we do.

God’s grace, mercy, and power can bridge every gap and conquer every divide.

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