Many of us live for a fleeting moment and pleasure. I know I have been guilty of such. We get so wrapped up into this earthly life, some days it is just surviving and other days on top of the world. Distractions like the idle chasing of butterflies, that bowl of ice cream x 3, another sugary coffee drink, the I-phone or computer screen. Momentary pleasures of a smoke or two, alcoholic drink of choice, the betting game until you win, another frivolous purchase, or floating high on a mind-altering drug without a care in the world, all these possible addictions mask the cold hard truths of life, pain, and depression. Like the painting Ship of Fools by Carl Dobsky, our doom may be just a few feet away.
Yesterday’s Gospel reading was about the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus extended grace to her but warned her “sin no more”. The priest opened the homily with “we all have been caught with the hand in the cookie jar.” Either by stealing, gossiping, gazing at internet porn, cheating on your taxes, telling untruths, slacking on the job, etc. The priest brought up an interesting question, what about the man, why was not he brought before judgement like the woman? The priest suggested that the adulterous man ran faster than the accusers. Any case he will still stand before God’s judgement. God looks for a repented heart, that is where you make a round-about change in direction from the wrongdoing.
The grace of God covers our sins when we confess them to Him. Addictions make it difficult to truly repent, but it is possible by calling on Him for strength. It is a day-by-day battle, for some minute-by-minute journey. Insecurities and unmet needs can lead us the wrong direction. Justifications can set in. I remember the day many years ago I had to choose what direction I was to take, to continue hanging around bad company, or take a different path with the mocking and ridicule to follow. I am so happy Jesus led me His Way. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life …” (John 14:6) Jesus tells each of us.
Ice and snow rang in the new year. If it is not the virus, it is the weather that keeps me close to home. So many dreams and plans put off during the pandemic. And we are not through with the COVID pandemic with millions of people to still be vaccinated. Maybe it was a job change, retirement, wedding, or a dream vacation deferred. Birthday and holiday celebrations with family and friends altered. Or not being able to be with a loved one while they were sick, or worse while they died. Lingering side effects from the virus? I have not had COVID but my heart was sick some days. How about yours? Many times we cannot understand God’s ways, or the ways of this world. The wait, why?
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, the old proverb tell us. There is the other half of that proverb which says “but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” (Proverbs 13:12 ESV). Studying closer this verse in Proverbs, here is a commentary from the 1600’s English nonconformist theologian, Matthew Poole: “Hope deferred; delays in obtaining that good which a man passionately desireth and hopeth for. The desire; the good desired and expected; acts being oft put for the objects, It is a tree of life; it is most sweet, and satisfactory, and reviving.“ Comparing Proverbs 13:12 to other scriptures, Proverbs 3:18 the “tree of life” connects wisdom and happiness. The NLT version says, “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.”
Despite this dreary, wintry start, I still welcome the New Year like the finches outside on the feeders. Each waits a turn at the feeder. I embrace the hope and wisdom of a better year in 2021. What is the good you desire? Dig deep using the gift of wisdom God instilled in you. Discern and know God has made you sufficient for such a time as this. Those deep roots have the tree of life for you. Happiness will be life to you when you hold onto the hope and the wisdom.
What kind of fabric clothes you? Is it rich with color? A neutral tone? Plush with softness or textured? Paisley print, plaid, floral print, solid pastel, or solitary bold? Does the fabric have a fresh, clean smell of spring, or of warmth like winter wool? Sometimes the fabrics of our lives pick up the stench of offensive stuff, like the burnt smell of overcooked popcorn or a dog rolling on a dead animal. BTW: why do dogs do that? Life brings rotten circumstances that cause us to stop in our tracks and ask “why me?”. Your emotions and anger seem out-of-control. Or life leaves us depressed enough not to know what to ask or say. Just a lump of dry meat stuck in your throat that won’t go down or you cannot throw it up.
I say pick up a pen, pencil, paint brush, chalk, glue stick, or vase. And get at least one word written on a journal page. Or that one paint color of choice brushed on the canvas. Or that one embellishment glued on your choice of media for a collage. Or that solitary flower added to the vessel of choice. You do not have to have the whole story together, just one word. You do not have to have a landscape or portrait finished. That collage comes together bit by bit as you find another medium to add for expression of your feelings. The flower vase may be a simply perfect vignette for the eyes with just that one flower you put in it. Create from your gut. I suppose they call this art therapy. I call it survival with color. Allow the mind to be freed and body feel it down to the bone as you empty yourself. You may not know all the answers, but your feelings come out in a healthy way and adds color and texture to the fabrics of your life. Art is another God-given tool as a woman warrior.
I was a guest panelist for the St. Louis American Heart Association’s Workplace Wellness Solutions Forum this week. What a wonderful experience to share the budget strategies I have incorporated in the wellness program at my workplace with other human resources and wellness professionals. Our keynote speaker, Aaron Hunnel brought his message of perspective, positivity, passion, and purpose. This humble young man has accomplished much in his young years. An American veteran who served two tours overseas, overcame addiction, has literally climbed several huge mountains, ran an Ironman Marathon with a disabled young woman as his partner, author of the book Upwards, and a successful business owner. His keynote message “There Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” moved many to tears. I sobbed. His authentic message reached home in my heart.
You see I know this woman who has a beautiful soul. She seeks the good in everyone she meets. She loves unceasingly, full of “thank yous”, and affectionate hugs. “See the light in others, and treat them as if that is all you see,” Kirk Weisler is quoted, and this is what this woman lives. And the courage she possesses is like no other I know. This woman has not one but multiple disabling medical conditions. This woman is Rachel, my oldest daughter. I am so proud of the character she has and is. An “all abilities” woman. The battles she has fought and continues to fight are extreme pain with advanced degenerative disc disease and arachnoiditis. Depression, self-pity, “why me”s, “why now”, purposelessness, faithlessness, hopelessness Rachel has fought against too. And this woman warrior has won! Her faith in God has saved her time and time again, and will continue to sustain her. Rachel gives love to family, friends, and strangers because she knows she was created for such as this. Love is sacred, love shared, no holding back.
Life is too short to sit idle, hate others, be jealous or depressed, and play mind games. With God’s grace, sincerity and a pure heart is what I desire to become. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10. Pure and as sweet as honey. White as snow. No bargains made or motives conjured up. Just live for my Creator. I answer to my God at the end of the day, every day. And every day is a gift. At the end of the day, I take in account how I spent those precious minutes, my God-given talents, supply of resources and energy? Is my time consumed in front of a screen, iphone-size or mega flat screen TV-size? Size of the electronic does not matter, just how did I personally connect to those around today? Did I pick-up my neighbor’s storm-tossed trash scattered across his yard, encourage my co-worker on her new project, smile at that smelly stranger on the street bench, or pick-up the phone to talk to my kin living a few hundred or 2 miles away? Everyone has something they are good at. My energy levels may be up or plummeted down or be sporadic. Did I use whatever today’s strength is to extend God’s love and grace? Did I pray and be a vessel for peace or healing? At the end of the day …