Have you ever passed a field of spent sunflowers? Their burnt brown heads are all bowed in the same direction, like a class of naughty kindergarteners abashed by their scolding teacher.
They look as though they considered the dust from whence they came, and maybe we all should do that occasionally? I have passed that same field when the stately golden heads were lifted high and proud and petal-full.
But the spent sunflowers are beautiful in their bare humility, like surrendered souls having shed all pretense to self-sufficiency. I’ve held my own head high, too, on a stiff neck and I’ve withered down to brown humility and though painful, one is infinitely better. Because to be brought low is to know the security and stability of the Source rather than wavering on your own skinny stalk.
This is the one I esteem, declares the Lord. He who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my Word. Isaiah 66:2
Jesus told those heartsick disciples on the road to Emmaus, Didn’t the Messiah have to suffer these things and enter into His glory? (Luke 24:26)
Suffering, it’s everywhere in Scripture, and everywhere around us, and sometimes we’d just rather have our best life now.
God doesn’t seem to view pain the same way we do. C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that God seems to take His most precious saints through some of the roughest, driest valleys (I believe he uses the very British word “troughs” instead).
His thoughts are not our thoughts; His ways are not our ways.
So we bow our heads with the sunflowers, give humble thanks, receive the manna-grace for today. We look forward to the day when all our suffering blows away like dust in the wind.
Do you feel withered and barren today, humbled before others or maybe just before your Maker?
Like my fellow Americans, I am still in shock and grieving over what transpired in Boston. Like many Oklahomans, I had previous plans to take part in the April 28 Memorial marathon in Oklahoma City, only now with an even more heightened purpose.
In training and preparation for my personal goal of running a half-marathon for the first time, I have been trying to remember the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing for which the race is dedicated. In the aftermath of the tragedy in Boston, I find further motivation.
Running, like any activity, is always at its finest when attached to a purpose. In our image-driven society, exercise efforts are too often undertaken for largely self-absorbed reasons, such as looking better in the mirror.
The Apostle Paul, meanwhile, tells us that bodily exercise profits some (1 Timothy 4:8), but spiritual well-being is the higher goal. Even when embarking on a good task, like jogging, we would do well to tie it to a purpose.
The purposes, of course, do not always need to be grand. Instead of a run on a treadmill, you could jog to the post office near your house to deliver mail. Or you could meet a friend or family member to jog and have fellowship. Or you could prayerwalk in your neighborhood.
While there are bound to be times we do activity to merely edify our bodies, I recommend we actively look for ways to do it with an added and higher purpose.
Certainly when I, Lord willing, line up to run later this month with thousands of others, we will be running to remember the fallen in 1995 and from this week in Boston. May God continue to have His hand on our country in this difficult stretch of miles ahead.
As a writer knowing I have some degree of influence, no matter how small, I usually try to choose my words judiciously.
Today I am not.
There is an outrage in me that should spread like wildfire not only at what is considered “news” in our mainstream media, but what is silenced for the sake of it. Today I give my voice, no matter how small, to those with the smallest voices who were never given a chance to speak.
You may have heard the story by now – though likely only through social media platforms. Pennsylvania abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell is under trial for extreme acts of brutality, murder, and infanticide. Gosnell’s former employees are testifying as to what they were led to do and witness over years in the abortion clinic.
If you want the gory details, Kirsten Powers has written a superb opinion article in USA today with all of the details I am literally too nauseated to type here. Read it. What I can tell you is that Gosnell’s procedures and practices were outside the law, outside of human conscience, and outside the realm of what any being or entity can justify.
Perhaps on a lower strata, yet outrageously concerning, is the lack of attention given to this trial which began on March 18th – nearly one month ago at the time of this writing – and took place over the course of more than ten years.
If you haven’t heard about the trial during your regular television or Internet viewing cycle, you’re not alone. No major news show on any of the top three networks has given a second of air space to the story. Even a quick review of major Internet news outlets finds them void of the massacre. At the time of this writing, Yahoo! News does not have the story in its top 95 stories, or even listed under its general news feed.
So what is listed?
- Hugh Hefner’s 87th Birthday Celebration
- Taylor Swift quits wearing eyeliner
- Top All-Beef Franks
- Cosby Show Cast Now!
…and a story expressing concern over whether or not a violent video game is “too real.” You know what IS too real? The fact that hundreds of children had their spines cut, “heads severed,” and were murdered – even outside of the womb and considered “viable.”
The outrage over the event is warranted. The fact that Planned Parenthood continues to deny and hem-haw around the issue is vile. The reasoning of major news executives in shying away from the story because of its pro-life implications is infuriating. The fact that this scenario may be playing itself out in countless other abortion clinics is frightening. Above all, the idea that these murders happening outside the womb warrant trial, yet inside the womb are simply a day at the office for abortion doctors should bring us to anger and action.
So what can we do about it?
If the mainstream media is afraid of the story because of its pro-life bent, we must use social media to champion it. We all have a voice, no matter how small. Use it.
As a father I weep. As a human I am enraged. As a victim of this charade by the media I am irate. As a Christian, I pray Lord come soon, ask for justice, and pray somehow for the gospel to be made known through this.
Hundreds of children have been silenced. Let us not be so.
Benjamin turns four years old the day I drive to help my dad and brother admit my grandmother into a geriatric lock-down facility. I finish the last touches of sweet white icing in a spiderweb pattern on his chocolate cake before I leave. He loves Spiderman.
The clouds tower high like glowering gray giants as I drive to the facility. Nervously, I smooth my ponytail and wipe my mouth of the remnants of lunch I had eaten on the way. My hands smell of vanilla frosting. My stomach is queasy.
I walk timidly in the front doors. The facility is dimly lit and smells of urine, but quiet except the sound of hospital personnel at work. Grandma is lying on a bed, rolling from side to side in pain. I hold her hand and she clings tightly to mine. We answer queues of questions, trying to paint a picture of the woman on the bed, explain how we had journeyed to this point.
Thomas* nods and listens, makes notes. We can tell he’s seen his own share of troubles by his familiarity with the pain meds we’re discussing. He has braces on his ankles, mentions two hip surgeries, and diabetes, too. I check his hand for a wedding ring, but there is none. I’m sad. No one should have to go through all that alone.
Grandma writhes on the bed, pain meds ineffective. She becomes more agitated. I rub her legs, hold her hand, tell her it’s going to get better. That’s why we’re here. She pulls back her lips until you can see her fillings on the top front teeth. I find that I am tense, too. I purposely relax my face.
An hour passes. Nurses come and go and a doctor, too. Everyone seems as mystified as we’ve been as to the source of the pain.
During a lull in the questions and visits, I tell Dad his eighth grandchild is coming in December. His haggard face breaks into a smile and a tiny ray of sunshine brightens the gloomy room, even while Grandma writhes on the bed. The power of new life. Life’s relentless circle, and maybe the tiny ones ease the pain of the aging just a little. I remember how Tim’s grandmother held her new baby great granddaughter the night before she passed away.
Dad tells Grandma about the new baby coming. She replies that she already knew, which of course she didn’t. She tells me I’ll be such a great mother. Then he tells Thomas, who asks me if it’s my first baby. He seems to be feigning interest, but I think of the empty finger and wonder if it’s sad for him.
I tell him it’s my fourth.
It doesn’t seem fair, new life within me, birthday party waiting at home, and we leave grandma in a wheel chair with a dispassionate aid standing by taking her blood pressure. So much life, and I wish I knew how to spread it around a little more evenly, like I did with the chocolate icing on Benjamin’s cake. Scoop up more frosting, smooth it on, even out this low place with a little extra. Enough sweet for everyone.
I try. I come back the next day during visiting hours. I memorize her patient code and speak it into the phone outside the locked doors. They let me in, lead us to a room to be alone.
Grandma cries a little when she sees me and tears rise in me, too, and I think we’re going to be a big weepy mess, us two. But instead, she cheers up and so do I. She tells me about group therapy and the doctor who looks like a movie star, only she can’t remember which one, and how she talked and talked, telling them all about her family. She says she enjoyed it.
And tenderness rises up within me, for her, this weak woman with a tear still on her cheek, and I know, I know how God feels about her.
He loves her.
Despite all the weakness and failing and anxiety and fear, He loves her, so tenderly. I feel Him, pouring it into my own heart. I take her hand and tell her, It’s going to be all right.
Sometimes we just need to hear that. And it’s true, even in the darkest shadows of sad places, there is still hope.
I’m reminded again: It’s not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick.
The sick and weak and falling-down failures, he loves us.
Lord, make us willing to open our lives and spread the sweet around. Make Your will my will. Align my life with Your purposes. Let me not hoard sweetness, but share it with those who have little.