Saturday, January 29, 2011

Life is a Journey

"Life is a journey," people sometimes say. Indeed, life is a journey, but just as you don't cross the country by car in just one day, similarly many different journeys make up each of our lives. We may travel through mountainous regions filled with the scent of evergreen, parched deserts, and verdant valleys. We may visit cities teeming with pedestrian life. We may drive through country places where miles and miles separate each farm. We may have days where the trip is fun and funny. We may have other days where the car breaks down or someone breaks in and steals our luggage when we stop to eat. But we just keep pushing onward, through all of it, knowing the destination is worth it all. And even the bad days - and the side trips we never expected - are blessed, if we remember Who is with us.

Of course we remember Who is with us! Of course we remember that. But how well we remember, and how we see Him, can profoundly affect the joy of our journey.

As we travel through the desert, the sun shines down on us and we wish we had shade or air conditioning (yes, I remember when we didn't have air conditioning in our cars). When we travel through fog, we wish we could see the sun. Yet through both conditions, the sun is there and it is good. The sun doesn't just shine on us. Without it, we would not exist for a moment.

And regardless of what's happening in our lives, God is there with us, both keeping us in existence and "there for us". Sometimes we feel that so strongly. Other times we hardly know (but like the foggy day, it is our vision that is obscured; He is there all the same).

Some of the saints went through dark times when they could hardly see the sunshine of God's presence and held onto it only by faith. Some think God allows this as a blessing (some of the saints found their greatest joy in suffering with Christ, Who suffered for us).

Sometimes, perhaps, the feeling of fog comes through illness or other problems. But other times, maybe, we need to understand better how much God loves us. As someone said, "Jesus would have died on the cross for you if you were the only one in the world". God loves each and every one of us individually. He loves each one of us more than our parents or spouses or children or siblings or friends can ever love us...more than all of them put together can love us.

Maybe I have exaggerated the picture I've gotten in the past from some people I have known. But it seems that some people think God is sitting on a throne, looking down, anxious to consign as many people as possible to hell...instead of weeping in the Garden of Olives, not only over the sufferings He would soon face, but also weeping over the way people would treat one another, His beloved children.

Sometimes it seems that people think God has gone into the desert and forgotten us, when in reality He is thinking of us every moment, and His very thought keeps us in existence.

Sometimes we might think that if we have sinned, God will abandon us. Perhaps we have forgotten the woman in the Bible who was going to be stoned. Jesus said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone", and when they all walked away, Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you." Yes, He tells us to sin no more. I believe that He tells us that as much for our own sake as because it is the "right thing". We can't always be happy in this life, but it seems that the more we try to do the right thing, the loving thing, often the more at peace we will be.

If fear of God means we fear to 'hurt' Him because he loves us more than the greatest love we have ever known from any human being, then I think that's a justifiable fear. If we would never want to hurt our loved ones on earth and, in the same way, we would not want to hurt our loving God, then it seems to me that may be a good kind of 'fear'. I believe that is what the Bible and the Church really mean by "the fear of God".

But if we have fear that crosses the line into obscuring our trust in the good God, if we have fear that clouds our vision of God as the greatest Love and the source of all love, then maybe we need to re-examine that. Maybe we don't really think that way, if we stop to think about it, but maybe some remnant of that hovers over us as a shadow. Maybe that shadow even sucks the joy out of our lives. Maybe we need to quit thinking in our poor human terms.

Perhaps it would help to spend more time thinking about Our Lord's loving kindness when he walked the earth. Maybe it would help to think about the praise and trust of David the Psalmist. Sometimes maybe it would help just to slow down and stop thinking about the world around us for a think about the World inside of us, the Creator who made us lovingly and made us even more magnificently than He made the marvelous and majestic trees and skies and oceans.

Am I being preachy because I've watched people and want to help them? No, I'm sharing with you because I've watched myself be influenced by shadows. And if anything I have said here might strike a note with someone - if I can help even one person who may have a shadow hovering over them - I would be happy to help, as I have been God and by his human "angels". Lots of loving people have helped me, and I appreciate all the love of my family, but I also appreciate one close friend who has stayed with me through many ramblings over a number of years, and a newer friend who has continued to encourage me to "Remember what is important".

May we all remember - during each day's journey and through each side trip - what is important and how loving our good God is!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reaping the Harvest

We tried to raise our children with love, faith, and positive attitudes. Sometimes I felt I wasn't doing so well at that...not based on results but based on my own less-than-perfect attitudes that I sometimes struggled with.

But now, I am in awe. Where did our children (now adults) get their optimism, their enthusiasm, their caring attitudes? I think they each took what we gave them, planted it, watered it, fed it, and let it grow like Jack's beanstalk.

After my son was hit by a car a few months ago, I expressed my dismay and he said, "My mother told me that God brings good out of evil."

Last night my daughter and a friend sat for nine hours on the freeway, where snow had crippled the traffic. I told her today that I had thought last night that if she had taken the bus home, she would have been home before the rush hour weather got bad. She pointed out that, then, our friend would have been alone, but instead she had someone to keep her company and make her laugh.

I was talking to a son about the job market and the "what if's": What if someone loses their job? He said, then God has something better for them.

Each of my children helps me in some way: one might negate my negativism, one might make me laugh; another time one will calm me, or encourage me, or strengthen my faith in God. With my husband, I gave my children life...and we gave them love. They give us back a hundredfold.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Little Lights

Little lights twinkle on the Christmas tree. Little lights shine through my computer so I can be in touch with friends and relatives. Little lights shine through my husband's laptop so he can come home for the evening and yet make progress on the January press of work. Little lights shine from my son's video magnifier so he can read, while little lights shine from the t.v., as he watches a football game. Outside, little lights go by on the freeway, as people go home to their own little lights.