Tag Archives: Trials

Reputation

No one whispers to you
what they whisper about you
to others

Though they might
taunt and tease

And while there may be
truth in the taunting
it’s never the whole truth

Only God knows
the whole truth
your whole heart
the pain in the depths
of your tortured soul

And He whispers to you
You are my beloved
What they say
doesn’t matter to Me
Don’t let it define you

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Nothing to Fear

There’s nothing to fear but fear itself

and bears if you’re in Yellowstone
loneliness if you’re all alone

failure if your theory is flawed
sickness and death if you don’t know God

Yet if God is on your side
there’s nothing to fear
just trust and abide

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You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

I’m working on my book proposal today. I posted the draft Prologue last week. I’m determined to finish the proposal this week so an editor friend can review it before I submit it to the publishing house editor who requested it at the Faith & Culture Writers Conference. I had a breakthrough this week when I realized the Chapter 1 I’d drafted started in the wrong place. This is the beginning of the new Chapter 1.

I’m planning to include a poem on the title page of each chapter. The poem for this chapter is one I wrote a week after the events recounted here.

You Can’t Go Back to Tuesday

Last Breath

Breathing
in, out again
no other sound so dear
except if you spoke, one more time,
I’d hear.

I sat in that suffocating little room with my sister Suz, my brother-in-law Dick, and the shell of my sister Peggy. When I had arrived earlier in the day I wouldn’t have known it was her in the bed if Suz hadn’t also been there. I hadn’t seen Dick in 28 years; he’d changed, kind of looked like Grizzly Adams after a month in the woods alone.

And Peggy, she didn’t look like anyone I knew. The last time I’d seen her she didn’t look too bad. She admitted the cancer was back, but she covered up how bad it was pretty well. And she had been hopeful, ready to fight and win again. But she wasn’t going to win this time—she would breathe her last in that tiny, sterile room with just the three of us there.

I’d woken up that morning with plans to go to the dentist in the morning—even though I was dreading it—and then in for my annual mammogram and breast MRI. On Friday I was going to go visit Peggy in the hospital. I was told she’d probably be feeling better by then.

But Suz called early that morning and said Peggy had taken a turn for the worse. “You should come as soon as you can. Dick said she was pretty bad.”

I called my cousin Noryce to tell her what was going on with Peggy and to just talk. Noryce always has good advice and knows just what to say.

“I don’t know what to do. I have these two appointments I have to keep, but I want to go see Peggy. Maybe I can just wait until tomorrow to go,” I said. “I should have just gone to see her on Tuesday.”

Noryce, in her infinite wisdom, replies, “You can’t go back to Tuesday. What are you going to do today? What’s the worst that could happen if you cancel your appointments and go? What if you wait to go until tomorrow and she’s already gone?”

She knows the story of when my dad died and I wasn’t there. He had called me and said, “Come see me.” But it cost money to fly to Desert Hot Springs where he was and we didn’t have a lot of money at the time. So I bought an inexpensive ticket for two weeks out. He died a week later. I will always regret that decision.

So I called the dentist to cancel my appointment, worried that they would be upset and charge me for the appointment anyway. “Don’t worry about it. Go see your sister. Give us a call when you’re ready to reschedule.”

Then I called the hospital to cancel my mammogram and breast MRI. They were even more understanding given that my sister was dying of breast cancer. I don’t know why I was afraid they wouldn’t be.

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Eucalyptus on the Wind

The scent of eucalyptus calms me, brings me a sense of peace and tranquility. Essential oils enthusiasts say it’s supposed to be energizing, but it doesn’t have that effect on me.

Growing up in Southern California, I lived one block off the main drag into Ramona and that main drag was lined with towering eucalyptus trees. I don’t recall actually smelling the trees then and I’m sure the fact that they gave off such a wonderful odor didn’t register in my childish brain. But now the scent brings me back to that idyllic time in my life.

It was a time of bicycle rides on dusty dirt roads to the library or to a friends, mud pies and Easy Bake oven cakes, and swimming in the above-ground pool in the back yard. Those were the days of hamsters and sunshine and warm Santa Ana winds, of forgetting my jacket at school because it was so warm by the end of the day that I didn’t need it, even in the middle of winter. They were the days of arranging all my stuffed animals into jump-rope pens like I was a zookeeper.

To be sure, all was not perfect then. There was the kid down the street who teased me relentlessly. There was my sister who yelled at me a lot, and hated purple simply because it was my favorite color.

My sister was a big part of my life then. I always refer to her as “my sister,” as if I only have one. I have three sisters, but Berta was closest to me in age, just three years older, and the only one I remember living in the same house with. I have a brother, too, who is 17 years older than me. I usually refer to him as “my brother Tom.” I’m not sure why he and my sister Peggy and my sister Suz always get their names added, and Berta is just “my sister,” but that’s the way it is.

Objectively speaking, life was good.

But I did learn some things during those early years that stuck with me through much of my adult life.

I learned that cancer sucks. Twice my mom went into the hospital with cancer, once with breast cancer (which her sister had died of) and once with uterine cancer.

The first time, I was allowed into her room and ate her Jello so she could come home sooner. The second time, they put her in the maternity ward because the cancer ward was full. Kids weren’t allowed in the maternity ward, so I had to stay alone in the waiting room. And I worried. But she survived both bouts with the dreaded disease, which did get her in the end, but that’s a story for another chapter.

Another thing I learned was that books are the best things ever. Every other week I would ride my banana-seat bike to the library, fill my handle-bar basket with books, and head back home past the eucalyptus trees to hole-up in my room and read. I spent a lot of time in my room reading even when the sun was out (which, frankly, was most of the time). When my two-week check-out was up, I’d head back to the library. To this day I am dangerous in a bookstore because I can’t seem to walk out empty-handed. (I gave up on libraries several years ago because I would forget to return the books and have to pay fines for overdue books. It killed me to pay the library for a book I couldn’t keep.)

I learned that saving money is a crock. One year my parents gave my sister and me $10 a week allowance. We would drive down to the Savings and Loan every week with our personal passbooks and deposit half our money in the bank. I thought I was saving for whatever I might want some day—some big ticket item that I otherwise wouldn’t be able to get or maybe just a bunch of books. Then one day my dad drove us to the Savings and Loan and had us withdraw all our money for the family vacation. I didn’t even want to go on vacation and have to ride in the back with my sister. It was a long time before I learned the value of saving money or felt in control of the money I saved.

I learned that fresh vegetable are delicious and canned ones are disgusting. But that growing fresh vegetables is hard work. We had a garden that spanned the whole width of our half-acre lot. We grew green beans, carrots, radishes, cucumbers (and dill), tomatoes, and more. We ate canned vegetables sometimes when the fresh ones were gone, but to this day I can’t eat canned peas or green beans.

But most important to my story is that I learned no one wanted to hear me cry. When I was little, I had a temper like a small hurricane. I didn’t like to be teased and would become angry and cry if anyone teased me. I was always told, “Go to your room and cry. No one wants to hear you crying.” So I did.

But the temper tantrum didn’t end there. You see, the way our house was designed, my bedroom was, I think, supposed to be a family room. It had two doors opposite one another so that it functioned as a hallway between the dining room and the back hallway where the bathroom and other bedrooms were. When I was sent to my room, I would run into the room and slam one of these two doors. Because of some principle of physics that I don’t even remotely understand, the door would not completely close and the slamming would cause the other door to fly open and hit the closet. So then I would run over and slam that door, with the same result, until my mom yelled, “Quit slamming those G** damned doors!”

The belief that no one wanted to hear me cry or to witness my temper tantrums stuck with me for a long time. The way I’ve always interpreted that statement is that no one cares how I feel. When bad things happened to me later in life, I told no one because I didn’t think they would care. When I was the most depressed, I kept it a secret because I was ashamed of feeling so bad and didn’t want to waste anyone’s time.

It turns out that many of the things we learn as kids just aren’t true.

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Courageous

The prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write using antithesis. Bjorn asks us to use contrasting terms to encompass the real truth of the matter as we live in a world both black and white at the same time. As the topic of fear and courage have been much on my mind lately, I immediately thought of the antithesis of feeling fear while having faith. This is how we can be courageous.

Courageous

The giants tower above me
menacing and cruel
I tremble in faith
Stand resolutely with fear

The waves crash down upon me
mighty and powerful
I  shudder in faith
Rise unflinchingly with fear

The enemy surrounds me
threatening and heartless
I cringe in faith
Prevail triumphantly with fear

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Jeremiah Preached the Gospel

I’ve been reading through Jeremiah, alternating with Hebrews, as part of my Bible-in-a-year reading schedule. I’m up to chapter 23 of Jeremiah, but I kept thinking about chapter 17. So I went back and re-read chapter 17 the other night. As I read through it, I realized that this passage encompasses the Gospel and that is why I was drawn back to it.

I love when I find the essence of the Gospel of Christ in the Old Testament (it’s all over the place, you know), but I didn’t really expect to find it in Jeremiah. This is a book by a prophet that the Israelites did not like. His gloom and doom predictions for Israel resulted in the priests and “prophets” plotting against him, and he was arrested, whipped, and put in stocks. He spoke on behalf of the Lord to warn the Israelites of God’s anger because they had turned away from Him, and he predicted that many of the Israelites would die at the hand of the Babylonians or from famine, and that others would be exiled to Babylon, if they did not change their ways.

But in the middle of all of the warnings and predictions is this passage that I believe encompasses the Gospel in a nutshell:

Wisdom from the Lord

 5 This is what the Lord says:
“Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans,
who rely on human strength
and turn their hearts away from the Lord.
6 They are like stunted shrubs in the desert,
with no hope for the future.
They will live in the barren wilderness,
in an uninhabited salty land.

 7 “But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
8 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.
Jeremiah 17:5-8 (NLT).

Verses 5-6 speak of those who trust in their own ability to be righteous and believe they can earn their own way to heaven. When their judgment day comes, they will be cursed because they have trusted in human strength. Even in this life, their spiritual lives are barren and they have no real hope or strength in the face of the trials of this life.

Verses 7-8 speak of those who trust in the Lord Jesus for their salvation and know that they have no hope of righteousness on their own. They are not bothered by the trials of this world because they have the power of the Holy Spirit to sustain their spiritual life. They have the hope of eternity with God.

I love the imagery of this passage of Jeremiah. When trouble comes, and it will come for all of us, the one who trusts in human strength is “like stunted shrubs in the desert.” But the one who trusts in the Lord “like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.” The stunted shrub is the perfect picture of worry and hopelessness. How can such a shrub ever survive? But the tree by the riverbank is the perfect picture of peace and hope. Such a tree will survive the worst drought because it has tapped into the source of life.

In this passage, water is life for the plant. In the New Testament, Jesus promises living water to all who believe in Him.

Jesus Promises Living Water

On the last day, the climax of the festival, Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’” (When he said “living water,” he was speaking of the Spirit, who would be given to everyone believing in him. But the Spirit had not yet been given, because Jesus had not yet entered into his glory.) John 7:37-39 (NLT).

The question that faces every human being is whether they will trust in human strength or will put all their trust in their Creator. How about you? Do you seek to earn your own salvation through the strength of your own righteousness? Or have you chosen to trust in Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for your sins, recognizing that your strength and righteousness are nothing compared to His? When the drought comes, will you die of thirst because you have no power to create living water? Or will you thrive because you trust in the One who offers an endless supply of living water for all who believe?

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Nepal

The Day 27 prompt at the NaPoWriMo site is to write a hay(na)ku, another short form poem I’ve never heard of. But I do love short form poetry, especially in the final days of a 30-day poetry challenge. Here’s my timely poem, a hay(na)ku time seven.

Nepal

Pray
for Nepal
earth is quaking

Pray
for Nepal
dead and dying

Pray
for Nepal
temples all destroyed

Pray
for Nepal
may heaven rescue

Pray
for Nepal
send aid workers

Pray
for Nepal
hearts are broken

Pray
for Nepal
may God rebuild

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What Shall I Do?

Shall I watch you
drink the Kool-aid
when the nectar’s
free for all

Shall I watch you
peer into the abyss
when I can see
you’ll surely fall

Shall I watch you
pour water in your tank
when I’m certain
it’ll make you stall

Shall I watch you
attempt to escape
when there’s danger
beyond the wall

Or shall I warn you?

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Where This Road Leads

I know full well where this road leads
The end is my desire and goal
But I know not how long it be
Or what lurks beyond the next knoll
My Companion knows, but won’t tell
I must trust that He’s in control
He’ll never leave me as I trudge
Toward rest for my weary soul

 

The prompt at dVerse Poets Pub today is to write an octet with the road as a theme. For more road-themed octets, head over to dVerse and click on Mr. Linky.

This is also my Day 21 post for NaPoWriMo2015.

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The Cost

We’re jousting over at dVerse Poets Pub today as the tournament continues. The challenge is to take one line from either Brian’s or Claudia’s poem, posted there, and write a new poem with that one line included. I cheated a little and took the last two lines of Brian’s poem to create this one.

The Cost

I need no reminder
the cost.

I see it in the grieving faces
of the mourners as his funeral.

I see it in the furrowed brow
of a mother whose child is behind bars.

I see it on the network news
night after bloody night.

I see it in the mirror
looking at a life that could have been
but was delayed, hindered by disobedience and fear.

The cost of disobedience,
of “freedom” that isn’t truly free,
but a prison, as we become slaves to sin.

I need no reminder
the cost.
Still I’m reminded every day.

And then I recall the cost
He paid
to redeem what is lost.

To us the cost is consequences;
to Him the cost was to give His all
to save us from the ultimate cost.

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