hopeful peace

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I haven’t been very consistent in chronicling my peace journey this year. But time after time, I’ve been reminded of my One Little Word. Peace.

I have a peace phrase for each month. In January it was blessed peace — the Barocha! In February, pathway of peace. In March, perfect peace. In April, gift of peace; God was there, midst the tragedy. And in May, seeds of peace — while I was wrestling for peace!

This month, it is hopeful peace. Well, yes.

A couple of weeks ago we learned that our pastors are moving on. Just when we were settling in! (Or hoped we were.) I have to admit that I was surprised by the timing. But I am not surprised by the decision. Down deep, I knew this would not be a long term appointment for them. I anticipated this day would come. We will miss them so much it hurts.

It’s hard to imagine this little country church moving forward without their leadership. They have given much for great impact in a short time. And there is much work yet to do. So much that I might easily become discouraged. I remain hopeful that their replacements will be implements of continued progress. The pathway ahead is uncertain.

Soon after that, I took a wild ride on a roller coaster of reorganization at work. When the wheels squeaked to a stop, still solid on the rails, I had more responsibilities and new projects to manage. Under other circumstances, I might have been rattled. I was only thankful.

Inexplicably, it might seem, in the face of these recent upheavals, I remain hopeful and at peace. Beneath the surface runs a strong current of faith. To me, these uncertainties are opportunities for God to reveal himself. My hope is not in myself or my abilities. It is not in my title or position or association. It is not in my pastors or dear friends. My hope is in God; in God I trust.

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Speaking of hopeful … First thing this morning, a calendar reminder popped up: M’s due date! Yes, indeed, Henry James was due to arrive today. He doesn’t seem to be minding the calendar. But that is okay, we know he will come soon. Nothing suggests hopeful like anticipating the birth of a grandbabe.

20130620-081857.jpgGigi’s ready for you, Henry James! Yes, oh yes, your Mommy and Daddy, too — more than ready! And your cousin Ollie, our sunshine boy. Lots of aunts and uncles and second cousins (Sophia arrives today!) … most certainly your Pops and your other grandparents, too. Please come soon! Perhaps June 22 — what would have been your great-grandpa Dave’s 74th birthday? Or, well, whenever it suits you.

~ René Morley

wrestling for peace

20130514-204419.jpg I don’t know why I’ve never heard of RSV but we managed quite nicely without it. It seems we were fortunate; I’ve since heard of so many others’ chids who did not escape it. Our precious l’il Ollie was sure thrown for a loop these past ten days. And I was sucked down the RSV rabbit hole, so to speak.

I didn’t realize how anxious I’d become until my sister pointed it out to me in a kind and gentle way yesterday afternoon. “God didn’t give you a spirit of fear,” she reminded me. “What is that verse?” Neither of us could remember the way it ended; I had to look it up. “But of power, of love and self-discipline.” Right now it seems I need some all of that, eh? Not much further on, Timothy reminded us the source of power. “… I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to guard what I’ve entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:7,12)

Well, there’s the rub. Have I trusted God completely with my grandson? I call on his ministering angels without a second thought. I know they serve God and protect his people. I wrote Ollie a lullaby, proclaiming as much! But do I really, truly, completely trust my Heavenly Father with this baby boy? This more-precious-than-my-own-life grandbabe? Apparently not; not yet.

I remember all too well this wrestling match with God over our own chids so many years ago. It took me a long while to concede that God could and would care best for them. I was a mama bear at their school, the hockey rink, wherever the opportunity was ripe to go on the offensive. I took on their coaches, teachers, friends’ parents, even a negligent referee or two. Mercy! I was determined to be that parent who went to bat for her chids, who stood up against what was wrong with the system, who had their backs. I would be their biggest defender and strongest protector. Supermom, or something like that. My intentions were good; my approach, sometimes not so much.

Over time, slowly but surely, as I grew in my understanding of God and his great love, I learned that I could trust him with my most precious ones, too. His ways are much more gentle and effective. Bonus: in trusting him, I gained immeasurable peace! Because it wasn’t about me or my abilities, which are sorely lacking. It wasn’t up to me to defend and protect from every angle, as if I even could. Their well being was on him. And he was able.

So it was a rather rude awakening to realize I was slipping back into control freak mode. I had become riddled with fear, concerned for wee Oliver’s well-being, panicked by my feebleness and inability to make things right for him, right now. Teeth clenched until my jaw was sore and my tummy twisting into knots, a pitt settling dead center, I felt myself spiraling down that rabbit hole.

This is no way to live, not for a woman of faith! Especially she who’s name means peace! (Time to get back on track with my One Little Word, eh? I’ll say.)

Just in case I didn’t hear God clearly through my sister yesterday, he sent another messenger. We texted back and forth just before bedtime: me telling her the drama of the day — whereby I nearly had a meltdown in an scary Ollie-care scenario — and she reminding me that peace comes from surrendering to a loving Heavenly Father all that I don’t own and cannot control anyway. Huh. Well, yes, there is that.

Nothing much has changed since the Hubs and I raised our family. God is God. I am not. I will choose to trust him with Ollie and Henry and all the other grandbabes yet to come. I may have to remind myself of that choice over and over again and if so, I will. I will choose God’s perfect love, in which there is no room for fear. I will choose to accept his provisions for me and for my family. I will live gratefully in his perfect peace.

Peace to you, my friend, in whatever you are facing. May you breathe peace, in and out. Believe that God keeps his promises, even midst the storm. Cease wrestling, release control and receive his perfect peace.

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. John 14:27

~ René Morley

bedrock faith

On Monday morning, wee Oliver Lloyd went to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with a cold. On Tuesday evening, he went to the Emergency Room, where he was diagnosed with RSV. And on Wednesday morning, he was admitted to the hospital, isolated, hooked up to an IV and placed on oxygen. By then, he was a very sick little boy, barely three months old. It was a long and scary week.

What do you do when you are afraid? I mean, really afraid? I will tell you what I do: I pray. And I ask others to, pray too.

God has answered many prayers over the years; though not always in the fashion or time frame I’d hoped. I know he hears me, even if my prayers are sometimes ill founded, perhaps little more than wishful thinking or selfish sentiments. Sometimes it takes me a long time to sort that out, to see the bigger picture. I may become angry or disappointed in the interim. Yet in the balance, I have become convinced that he is who he says he is. He will do what he has said he will do. He has proven faithful.

I believe God when he says he will send angels to protect us; we need not be afraid, he will shelter us under his wings. I believe that he has wide wings! I believe that he has good plans for us, to give us hope and a future. I believe that he keeps his promises. I believe that he works for the good in all things for those who love him. I believe that keeping faith is so worth it.

When I am afraid, I often pray the Psalms. I love Psalm 91. When my chids were little, I developed a song from Psalm 91:11. It was simple but effective in reminding us that God orders his angels to protect us wherever we go. When my dad was hospitalized for the first time with lung cancer, I shared this psalm by way of encouragement. It is my go-to psalm in times of trouble.

As I read and prayed Psalm 91 throughout the week, I was once again impressed by our heavenly Father’s loving care. Even the angels who adore God and exist to serve him are dispatched to minister to his people. I do not hesitate to call on these heavenly reinforcements! This week, I wrote a lullaby for wee Oliver Lloyd. It emerged as I sang over him, a reflection of my prayer-thoughts for him.

Ollie’s Lullaby (Psalm 91)*

Angels above you
Angels beneath you
Angels to guard you
To guide and to keep you

God sends his angels to watch over you
They watch over you
Because he orders them to

Angels around you
Angels surround you
He orders them watch over you

As he shelters you under his wings
Yes, he covers you there
Where you have no cares
You are safe in his arms
Protected from harm
As he shelters you under his wings

Angels before you
Angels are near you
Angels to hold you
To carry and heal you

God sends his angels to watch over you
They watch over you
Because he orders them to

Angels around you
Angels surround you
He orders them watch over you

Singing over this sweet boy is this GiGi’s greatest pleasure. We have enjoyed lullaby time together since the day he was born. When I visited him on Thursday afternoon in the hospital, my heart was in my throat. The tubes, wires, and monitors were all so disturbing. It tore my heart to see him so uncomfortable. There was nothing I could do for him, except to sing and pray.

And so I did, for a few hours that afternoon. Imagine my delight when his respiratory rate settled into normal range for the first time in days! Three times that afternoon a smile flickered across his sleeping face as I sang. He’ll never know how much he blessed me in the midst of his own pain and discomfort. Watching him struggle so to breathe, his response was like salve on the open wound in my heart. And it was an answer to many prayers.

The healing process was underway. Dozens of people in the community and across country were praying for Ollie. On Friday afternoon, I feel certain, he turned the corner. He began to eat. He remained alert for awhile. He smiled, big and real, for his mommy and daddy! By Saturday afternoon he was off oxygen and alert for several hours. We hope he will be released on Sunday. I can’t imagine a sweeter Mother’s Day for his mommy or her mommy, his GiGi or great-grandma!

I hope that his mommy and daddy, his grandparents, aunts and uncles, his extended family, friends, neighbors and others afar each experienced this week as a faith-builder. I know that another layer of faith-sediment has been added to my foundation. When stormy times come, as they will to each and every one, we need bedrock faith.

Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash. (Matthew 7:24-27)

~ René Morley

*Email me for the melody.

god was there

20130422-190341.jpg So much was reported last week about the Boston marathon bombings that I need not recount details here. And like so many others, I was drawn to breaking news at all hours of day and night, all week long. It was dramatic and it was terrorizing, no doubt especially so for those in close proximity.

These acts of intentionally hurting, maiming, and killing innocents? They make no sense. Yet they happen every day, it seems, and often in otherwise peaceful places.

Last week, three people were killed and 170 maimed or injured at a sporting event in Massachusetts. Four months ago, two firemen were killed and two injured in a calculated ambush in western New York. Four and a half months ago, 20 children and six adults were massacred at an elementary school in Connecticut. Nine months ago, 70 people were injured and six killed in a movie theater in Colorado. Twenty-seven months ago, six people were killed and 12 wounded at a political event in a supermarket parking lot in Arizona. Normal, every-day, community events turned evil beyond belief. You don’t have to be a terrorist to incite terror.

****

Some years ago, an evil influence infiltrated the small, rural campus where my daughter attended college. She had chosen the school in large part because it was situated in a tiny town. She really wanted to go away to school and this place felt safe to her. We were sure she was right. There seemed no safer place in the entire world to send our girl off to learn. It was until it wasn’t.

One weekend the spring of her first year, the bubble burst. Initially, we were clueless; too far away to realize what was happening. Then we were helpless; too far way to be of any help. She was threatened, forced into hiding, traumatized. Eventually the State Police became involved and the situation stabilized. Soon thereafter, she came home, bringing nightmares with her. We hoped and prayed that somehow she could feel safe and secure again. But what could we do to ensure it?

****

As Boston reeled from the onslaught, I was reading in 2 Chronicles. This section of the Old Testament recounts King Solomon fulfilling his father’s dream, building a temple in which the God of Israel would reside. A house fit for the God of all creation? It was ludicrous, the thought! Solomon knew that. Yet God had blessed the plan. So the king spared no effort or expense to make this dwelling place acceptable to the Holy One. And it was.

When God showed up, his presence was unmistakeable in the form of a heavy cloud. Then fire fell from heaven to consume the sacrifices. Poof! In their place, his glory remained. His presence was so powerful, completely filling the temple, that the priests could not enter. The people fell on their faces, awestruck. God was so near!

I pondered how this passage spoke to events unfolding. These days, it might seem God is harder to find. He’s not so obvious, I might suggest. Was he in Boston last Monday? Where do we find him, generally? There is a clue in 2 Chronicles.

King Solomon’s temple was part of God’s master plan of redemption. This was a way, a place, for God to draw closer for awhile. But it was dangerous. God’s holiness is nonnegotiable; he cannot coexist with less. The priests followed strict ordinances to serve in the temple. Annually, on the Day of Atonement, a priest entered the Holy of Holies, the most sacred inner sanctum, to make a sacrifice for the community. It was a frightful duty. Small bells were attached to his robes to signal he lived on in the presence of God, concealed behind the thick temple veil.

Meanwhile, the people tried to keep the law, more or less, to stay in right relationship. It was impossible. They failed, time and again. Ultimately, God grew weary. He sent his son, Jesus, as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. God spared no effort or expense to come near, again.

Creation took note when Jesus died. The skies turned unnaturally dark, as black as night. The earth trembled and quaked. The temple veil, woven four inches thick, was torn in two from top to bottom. This last was symbolic and an important public announcement, proclaiming from the most sacred temple space that the final sacrifice was complete and acceptable. Most significantly, after this earth-shaking event, we became his temples. Now God lives in us, in his people, in those who invite him near.

****

So what about Boston? Webster? Sandy Hook? Aurora? Tucson? Was God there?

Thousands of pictures flooded the media from the Boston explosions. A few stand out, forever imprinted, seared into memory. What I see, when I look closely, is the powerful force of a loving God dispelling evil. In the citizens who jumped in, running toward danger, shedding the shirts on their own backs to tourniquet; in the first responders, the firemen, the policemen who selflessly lay their lives on the line to serve and protect others; in large and small acts of love of the highest order, I believe God was there.

God’s love pushes back evil just as light beats back darkness, every time. We may not escape terror when evil goes on a rampage but we will find God in our midst. God will be there. He has to be. For in his absence, evil is unchecked and this world, this life, would be unbearable.

I don’t know why they did what they did, those evil doers in Boston, Webster, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Tucson, or places unnamed. Nor can I truly comprehend the pain and suffering they’ve caused. I have no words to describe the ripple effect their deeds will have on families, friends, community, and our nation. But I trust God will be there.

He will continue to manifest himself. In the aftermath of trauma, in the healing, in the courage it takes to forgive, in the strength required to live on, God will be near to those who seek him. You will know his presence by his gift of peace.

Jeremiah 29:11-13

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

Psalm 130: A song of ascents.

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you.
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

John 14:27

I am leaving you with a gift of peace of mind and heart.
And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give, so don’t be troubled or afraid.

~ René Morley

adventure antigua

We do not have the best track record in Antigua. Organized group tours, in general, are seldom as good as they sound. There was one nice catamran excursion, a few years ago. Others have been doomed.

The worst to date, by far, was a banana boat snorkeling and beach excursion. This was a speed boat with one faulty engine. (Read: no speed.) A boat that couldn’t reach plane (Read: long, cold, salt-saturated ride.) Arrogant and rude tour operators who were, please note, transplants from northeastern U.S. (Read: unprofessional and abusive.) All of this, topped off by choppy snorkeling conditions and deceivingly smooth rum punch. What a day.

People were complaining left and right. Some were cold and uncomfortable, after two hours under a sticky salt spray. Some were mad the swimming stop was nixed. Some were upset the ailing boat left the dock to begin with. The guide had no sympathy. “Go home and tell your friends, ‘I went to an island called Antigua and I got wet,'” he snickered. But the mood of the group did not bode well for tips.

So on the return, we made an abrupt and very brief stop at a beach. They floated a 48-quart Igloo chest cooler to shore and distributed a deadly concoction from plastic gallon jugs in generous quantities. It looked like Hawaiian Punch. Tasted like it, too. We, the unsuspecting, parched by salt and sun, drank greedily. (Read: sick. Sick like a dog.) I swear I can still hear them laughing as we tumbled off the boat. (Read: evil, evil men.) It was so bad that I petitioned and got our money back but it was small comfort. It was an introduction to Antigua we’d like to forget.

****

However, this spring we were feeling adventuresome in Antigua. We wanted something active. Something to remind us that, though we’ve become grandparents, we’re young, yet! So we agreed upon a rainforest canopy zip line tour. Actually, we signed up for that plus a challenge course. This latter fact was somehow, unfortunately, lost on me. I was too busy swallowing my apprehension about zip lining.

Truth be told, I’ve been wanting to try it. I am not afraid of heights. Fast is usually fun, too. But I am not athletic, not by a long shot. What business did I have harnessing up in such fashion? The thought gave me pause.

Well, it turned out that I had reason to be apprehensive. I only wish I’d managed to take photos — though cameras are forbidden. Live action video on the Antigua Rainforest Company website will have to suffice. Don’t be surprised if you find me featured in the “what not to do” section!

In Antigua, it seems, there is a natural approach. (Read: OSEA compliance?) Zip line infrastructure is built into the trees, living or dead. (Drive those pins in deep, please.) In addition to these cables, platforms and such, your safety depends upon a few crucial elements: your harness (seemed perfectly fine); your brake — that would be your “strong hand”, gloved, applying pressure to the steel cable running above your head (ummm, okay); and your ability to remember as you zip and spin through the canopy how to position hands and feet. Most importantly, you should not place either hand in front of the wheels running along the upper most cable (yikes)!

This zip line course is a series of nine segments, each different. Some are fast; some are long. Some require you to sit and launch; others to step off into thin air. All require you to position for landing, raising your feet to avoid colliding with the platform, and braking with that handy dandy glove to slow down in time. Brake too hard, and you may hurt yourself. Brake too soon and you may become stranded mid-line, requiring a rescue. But if you fail to brake enough, you must trust their safety brake — a block of wood thrown out onto the line to slow your approach.

Once you start, there is no way to get where you’re going except go. When I felt myself moving too fast, out of control, spinning toward the landing platform, I’d lose my bearings and my grip. I was secure in the harness, thank God, but I wasn’t sure where I could safely put my hands to brake. So I didn’t. Instead, I’d yell, “BRAKE ME!” while hurtling along at God-knows-what speed toward a small wooden platform on a tall post of a tree high in the forest. Most of the time, the block sufficiently slowed my approach.

There was one time I nearly swept the attendant off the platform as I came crashing in. There was another time my feet clipped the landing platform. It didn’t bother me until later, when my knee swelled up with an extra large egg and it became painful to walk. That’s when I learned the value of the ship’s on board infirmary.* But I am getting ahead of myself, eh?

Meanwhile, I was counting down the segments. Everyone else in our group of twelve seemed to be relishing each zip — jocks and jockettes alike. I was too stressed about getting from point A to Z. I asked every platform attendant, “How many more?” because by the time I’d gotten through yet another landing I’d lost count again.

But then, finally, the end. Whew! And wooooo-hoo! I was proud to have conquered my anxieties. I’d survived the zip line, fingers intact. And I really wanted a cold brew…

Except, cruel fate, it was not the end! No, indeed, recall we had also signed on for the challenge course, six more segments constructed of ropes, cables, and ladders stretching through the canopy. It required a lot of balance and some upper body strength. My hair was plastered to the inside of my ill-fitting helmet, tilted askew. My shirt was stuck to my back. I was parched and weak all over. Oh, my mercy.

“I’ll go last,” I said. “I know I will be slow. I don’t want to hold everyone up.” The rest of the group seemed quite relieved.

“I’m nervous,” I confessed to the attendant.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “We’re here to help.”

The Hubs offered to follow me, ready to help out if necessary. “No,” I said, “You go ahead. Just not too far ahead. Don’t leave me behind.” I was worried about connecting my safety cable. It was heavy and I was tired.

I did okay at first. And then that dratted cable got stuck. I couldn’t move it. I was alone, the Hubs far enough ahead to be of absolutely no help to me. I was frustrated. And angry. I said a bad word. About him. (Of course, then I also had to apologize. But not just yet. I’m getting ahead of myself again.) I mustered my strength, climbed up the side of the pole, and flung the cable into place with great irritation. This was more than I’d bargained for and I was not going to pretend to like it.

On the very last stretch, an attendant called out to me from the other side. “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” I said. “Why? Are you worried about me?”

“Yes,” he said, making his way toward me.

“Why?”

“Well, you look shaky.”

Hmm. I guess I could concede that point. I wasn’t sorry to see him, halfway across a particularly tricky obstacle suspended from the treetops. He gave me a few pointers as we worked our way through to the end. I thanked him for his help. “It’s sure nice to have friends in high places,” I said. And I meant it, although I know I could have managed.

It occurred to me then, in that very moment midst the rainforest canopy, that the challenge course is an analogy for life. We can go it alone. And we can be thankful we don’t have to.

~ René Morley

*Because I was injured on a tour purchased though the ship, the $111 fee to use the infirmary was waived. The doctor was very thorough, even offering to do x-rays. He provided a brace, heavy duty ibuprofen, and assurance that all would be well. He also supplied a doctor’s note, which allowed us to cancel our 5 hour hike of the Pitons the next day without penalty. He was right. I was in no condition to hike. I guess one adventure per cruise is enough!

12-12-12

This is it! The last triple-matched calendar date of the century! Gasp!

There’s been a mad rush to claim the date for wedding ceremonies and C-section deliveries. Many believe they can control destiny by aligning with the calendar. Amusing, perhaps; a bit sad, too. In the end, it’s much to do about nothing.

Winter’s chill has settled in here in the North Country. Cold usually means clear. Last night, it looked like God had tossed a gazillion diamonds across an inky black canvas. I was awestruck. There’s nothing like a stellar display to remind me that I am but a speck of dust.

Louie Giglio’s description of the vast universe is another good reminder. As Louie describes it, we live on a speck called Earth — 960,000 Earths would fit inside our Sun. And though our Sun is a massive star, it is just one of hundreds of billions of stars of the Milky Way galaxy — our cul de sac, so to speak, in our neighborhood of a mind boggling cosmos.

Correction: I am but a fragment of a speck of dust.

This morning I was happy to locate my dog-eared copy of The Day Christ Was Born and continue my Advent preparations. I also discovered an app tracking the Christmas story as it is read around the world. A star lights up every time someone accesses the scriptures. Captivating!

storytracker2 story-tracker1

What is it about the Christmas story that we’re still absorbed in it — all over the world — two millennia past? In a word, it’s hope. Hope!

Hope that Someone else has this figured out. Hope that Someone else is in control. Someone who is on scale with our mind-blowing universe. Someone we can trust with our measly bit of dust. Events recorded more than 2000 years ago are called the Good News because Someone showed up!

God is with us. God is for us — you and me, too. From the beginning, God gave us reason to hope and then, to celebrate. As I mentioned a few days ago, Sara and wee Toby Groves tell the story so well: It’s True, (O Holy Night, 2008). Listen in…

It’s True (featuring Toby Groves) (Album Version)

~René Morley

all things

Can you remember the last time life threw you a hard and fast curve ball? Was it, like, just last week? Me, too. Often, it seems, fear cuts in on the tailwind of that thing and hits me full in the face. What to do about that?

Well, first I tend to I fret and worry a bit. Or a lot. Then I begin to scheme and strategize, to try to find my way through the miry mess. That’s exactly where I was this morning, immersed in Romans and battling an urge to make things happen On. My. Own. Terms.

But inevitably, eventually, I realize yet again that I cannot control the situation. Fortunately, Someone has my back.

I began a journey through the Apostle Paul’s writings a few months before taking my Big. Trip. Paul seems like an old friend, especially after walking in his hot and dusty footsteps. There are plenty of ways I still don’t “get” him — ahem, especially some of his thoughts on women — and maybe I never will. But there’s a lot to appreciate all the same.

Paul wrote several of my all-time favorite verses: Romans 8:28, 31, 38-39. I don’t find Romans, or Paul, easy to read. His wordiness bogs me down. But this morning, Paul’s letter to the Christian believers in ancient Rome was just the encouragement I needed. We put the run on fear, my pal, Paul, and I.

I loved this scripture first as a song I learned in the late 1970s It is a powerful and calming reminder of God’s love. I’ve been singing it all day! The words go like this…

For I know that nothing can keep me from the love of my Lord
Neither death nor life, the fears I have today, nor my worries for tomorrow
For all the angels speed it on its way…
and the power of hell itself cannot keep it away
Oh, it makes no difference if I’m on the mountaintop, or at the ocean’s sand
For the Lord has made it all and all is in His hand
Yes, I know that nothing can keep me from the love of my Lord!
*

In Romans 8, a man often pursued and persecuted for his stalwart faith insists that God works the good in all things for those who love him. All things! He doesn’t say that we will like the situation. Or that we wouldn’t choose otherwise, if we could. He says that God will cause everything to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to His purpose.

If God was working for the good in that oven-like prison on the hill outside of Ephesus? In the shackles and chains? Floggings and stonings? Shipwreck and snakebite? Years of house arrest and hardships untold? Well, then. That’s good enough for me. Surely He can work for the good in this thing, too. My thing? This is nothing. Nothing!

If God is for us — Paul and you and I — who can be against us?

~René Morley

*I don’t recall who wrote it but would gladly give due credit if I could figure it out. (Let me know, will you?)

sudden storms

Yesterday we were hit with a doozie. I don’t think it was in the forecast; it certainly wasn’t on my radar. But it came anyway, fast and furious. The winds whipped leaves and limbs into a frenzy, a deluge pounded against roof and windows. Before I knew what was happening, it was too late. And then I was an hour and a half mopping up puddles, wiping sills, absorbing excess in carpets and cushions. What a mess.

Sure, it was just a passing storm. Some collateral damage, some inconvenience, some danger. Life goes on. But that is not always the case.

Last week a sudden storm of another sort hit near home, in the form of a local tragedy. A week ago they were a happily married, high school sweethearts nearing retirement, contemplating the grand seasons ahead. Their children grown, they were entering into that sweet phase of reduced responsibilities, increased freedom and opportunities. They had every right, it would seem, to have those dreams. But today she is a heartbroken widow and single parent, facing a very different future.

My heart aches for her, for her family, for what is lost. She didn’t see it coming. She couldn’t have. This storm will not pass quickly. The damage is devastating; a wide swath of tangled debris that will take some time to clear. Beneath the rubble, I hope her foundation is firm, set on solid rock, that she may regain her footing. I pray that she finds peace in the process of healing. I pray because there is nothing else, nothing more, I can do.

Observing from a distance, I find myself asking, “Where is God in this?” It is certainly not clear from here. But I trust that he is there, somewhere. I know that he was not surprised by this tragedy. Somehow, some way, this, too, may be redeemed. That’s what he does.

Meanwhile, he promises to always be with us. Always. He promises peace of mind and heart, rest and new strength to those who trust in him. He promises that we will never be separated from His love. He promises to supply all of our needs; to carry our worries while he cares for us. He promises to give us hope and a future.

Some storms come so quickly there is no time to think. Then there is only instinct. Whenever it comes — and it comes to each one — may our preparations prove sufficient to withstand the onslaught.

~René Morley

s-s-s-snake! (2)

Part 2: the process to be free of the problem (part 1).

This afternoon, my walking partner* was delighted to catch sight of slim yellow-green stripes slithering off into the forest. (I love that she and I are so different, even in this.) She followed for a bit but, thankfully, resisted the urge to pick him up. (I also love that Bev knew snake handling might place a strain our friendship!) Meanwhile, I am pleased to report, I was not a blubbering, hyperventilating mess. I was a somewhat-stressed, definitely-uncomfortable but still-functioning adult. And that, my friends, is victory!

I am certainly a work in progress, but I’ve noticed three elements to becoming free of my fear of s-s-s-snakes: (1) facing my fear head-on, (2) prayer, (3) pressing on.

Number 1. Facing my fear was for me, quite literal. He was big, ugly and completely unfamiliar — a size and genre I had never seen in our region. (Apparently, he was a rat snake.) He was head-on to my hand; I was mere centimeters from certain death! Or not. I’m really glad he was not venomous. I certainly don’t recommend anyone go looking for this sort of experience but it seems this sort of snake shock treatment was required. Something like my worst fear was realized and I survived to tell about it. Who woulda’ thunk it?

Number 2. My sister, God bless her, responded to my desperation in the way she does best. She prayed for me that day and continued to do so, checking in with me periodically. It was a long time before I had favorable news to report. Meanwhile, I began praying, too. Huh. There’s a concept.

Number 3. I’ve encountered dozens more snakes in the several years since my Big Snake! experience. Most times, the grace of God is clearly evident. Perhaps I’m not alone, or I feel safer because I have a garden tool in hand (but still, can’t bring myself to use it…), or I spot the serpent at some distance and am able to prepare myself, or I don’t spot him until he is nearly out of sight and it’s too late to freak out. Regardless, I strive to press on and, over time, I’ve seen slow but steady progress. I seldom hyperventilate or have to reroute these days. However, I remain on high alert…

~René Morley

*And for the other side of the s-s-s-snake story, read Bev’s post. Delightful!

s-s-s-snake! (1)

Part I: this is the problem.

Today I saw a snake — my first of the season. I’ve been wondering for weeks when they would reappear and worrying a bit on every walk, so it was almost a relief. I heard him before I saw him — my ears are well tuned to a snake’s sneaky moves. The Hubs insists that I see more snakes because I am so intently looking for them. Listening too, apparently.

As a little girl, I developed fears of dogs and snakes. I have no rationale for these fears but fear often thrives without reason! My mother was afraid of these same things. Fear may be learned, to some extent. So yes, it’s tempting … but as an adult, there’s no point in blaming anyone. I own them. Besides which, my mother managed hers.

Lack of leash laws not withstanding and dogs be damned, she was determined to be outdoors and loved to ride her bike. So she carried Halt! and pedaled fast, or at least fast enough. She became quite adept at snake disposal, developing a technique with the flat side of a round pointed shovel that never failed. These are almost matters of survival for Rural Free Delivery residents, surrounded by acres of farmland, wet woodland and miles of dogs on the loose. Somehow, my mother pedaled and shoveled her way through.

Meanwhile, I’ve been tormented and debilitated by these fears. Countless times, my heart pounding in my chest, I’ve spun on my heel at the sight of a roaming dog or sunning snake. It doesn’t matter that its’ tail is wagging or it’s only a small one or that it’s not poisonous, so save your breath. And no, it’s not more afraid of me than I am of it.

When I admit my fears, folks often chime in, “Oh, I don’t like snakes either!” Well, I sympathize. I don’t like raw seafood. It makes me squirm. But fear can’t be avoided, like a sushi restaurant, or otherwise explained away. It’s a joy-killer. It stalks you and haunts you.

For years I had regular, recurring snake-mares of various sorts, each ending abruptly as I awoke to see a serpent on my nightstand — oddly, just where I knew it would be. I couldn’t read the word “snake” or view an image of a serpent without a visceral reaction. There is evidence to suggest that fears like mine are remnants of an earlier time, when avoiding snakes or spiders was important to human survival; other research disputes this claim. Regardless, my fears were out of control.

Ironically, I also seem to be a snake magnet. I have more snake stories than you have socks. Friends say, “Of course we will see a snake if you are with us!” Often enough, we do. I take no pleasure in this, I assure you. In fact, until recently I was an inconsolable mess every time a serpent and I crossed paths. As you might imagine, the thrill wears off quickly for my companions.

One autumn day on a gorgeous hike, I was surprised by a sizable snake. He was about six feet long, a dull black, thicker than my wrist, and wrapped around the railing of the stairway to a ravine. In the nick of time, my brain registered what my eyes saw and the rest of my body responded, simultaneously retracting my outstretched arm and initiating a public panic attack. My daughter thoughtfully grabbed my camera and snapped a series of action shots: mom, snake, mom, snake, mom, snake. Great.

My sister tried to comfort me while instructing me to breathe: in, out, in, out, in, out, in. I continued to flail and gasp, proclaiming: BIG snake! Big SNAKE! BIG SNAKE! to the group descending behind us. They were quite taken with the show, chatting as they continued on their way about this unexpected double feature.

One kind but foolhardy gentleman removed the snake to “safety” but did nothing for my fragile frame of mind. I urged him to stop, to save himself! My daughter continued to photograph and my sister tried to calm me but it was hours before I felt normal again, relatively speaking.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but on that day I turned the corner on fear. Since then, my progress has been slow, so very slow, but certain. I still hate snakes. I am never happy to see them. Although I continue to find them in my path, I am no longer debilitated. And I am overjoyed that the snake-mares have ceased.

My process* reminds me of the story of Naaman, healed of his leprosy only after he submerged seven times, as instructed by the prophet Elisha. (II Kings 5 to read it for yourself.) God could have healed him instantly, but He didn’t. Naaman had to accept his healing under the terms offered. He didn’t like it one bit. Me, either. But it takes the time that it takes.

~ René Morley

*More about the process in part 2.

And for the other side of the s-s-s-snake story, read Bev’s post. Delightful!