old journals, cemeteries, and... a question

Tonight, I'm coming out of blog-hiding to share something that I wrote a couple years ago and recently re-discovered in an old journal.  The other night, as I was lying in bed, wrestling with unsettling thoughts and unable to sleep, I felt drawn to this old journal, which was tucked under my nightstand.  I like journals, so I've had a lot.  This one's only significance is that it's the only one in which I filled every page.  Not that it's a great accomplishment, in the grand scheme of things, but if none of my other myriad journals survive, I hope this one does.  It's the one that sounds most like who I'd like to be.  It sounds like the me that I am when I let God take the controls.

Some posts are not much more than rambling, some are troubled, some are angry, but they all have a stillness about them.  Even those nights when I was upset about something, there was still a sense of knowing that God would see me through it.  I remember it as a time of quiet communion.  It was no mountaintop.  But the valley is where we find water, after all... where we're sustained and prepared for the next mountaintop.  And looking back on that time has taught me not to resist a little valley living.

I have a love/hate relationship with cemeteries.  I guess I should have tried to come up with a clever segue there.  I love exploring them.  Ye olde hubby and I have had at least 2 cemetery dates that I can think of.  I'm not kidding.  But, as you might expect, it always makes me feel kind of, well... morbid.  Nonetheless, when I run out around my folks' house, I always feel compelled to take at least one turn around our church's cemetery.  There are a few graves I look at specifically as I pass by... mostly family or old saints who were part of the church when I was much younger, one mystery grave that has always intrigued me but I have no idea who the people are, and the grave of a young man I knew in high school.  He died tragically shortly after my hubby and I were married.  That was the one year I taught at our church's school and I would sit at the bottom of that hill everyday while my class had recess and grieve for that young man as if I had known him much better than I actually did.  I was young.  And he was young.  And it just wasn't right.  His gravestone bears the verse from James, "For what is your life? It is even a vapour..."

That verse drops like a rock in my heart every time I hear it and I always think of Allen.

A few years after that, I wrote the journal entry I recently "happened upon" and am about to share...

From October 9, 2011
It's hard to remember sometimes that we're just one of billions of families.  I think sometimes about how there are entire generations of people who have lived and died, had their own great ones - heroes, celebrities of some sort... who are all forgotten now.  At least for the most part.  How many nameless families have existed throughout time? Normal, working class families... who worked hard and tried to do right... had kids they adored and tried to teach right from wrong... served God to the best of their abilities.  And everyday, the sun rose just for them.  The way it seems to rise just for us from our perspective.  My life means everything to me.  There's nothing in this world more important than my family and our lives here.  But I know in my heart what a vapor it all is.  Just one vapor among billions and billions of vapors.  And the truly amazing part of all this is the fact that God's love for us is as if we were, in fact, the only vapor to ever exist.  How sweet to be so darling to the Creator of the universe.  He knows the names of the stars so far away that human minds can't begin to comprehend the distance.  And He knows my name, too.

I guess the point of all of this strangely-put-together blog post is a question.  For myself mostly, but "if it fits, wear it," as I heard our pastor say today.  If my life is such a vapor (and it is... I think I just read that somewhere), and if I have any better grasp on that fact than maybe I once did... then what in the heck am I doing?

We have such a limited time before we're gone.  And forgotten.  Get famous and try to be important if you want... those people get forgotten eventually, too.  My life is just a breath in comparison to eternity, so why am I spending my time doing things that will burn up with this world instead of things I can lay at my Savior's feet someday?

Someone's trying to get my attention.

I need to get out of the swamp and back into the valley if I ever hope to see another mountaintop.


victory and defeat

On this, the day following this year’s NCAA championship game and living in the great commonwealth of Kentucky, I can’t help but be painfully aware of the angst some of my fellow natives are feeling today.  Yes, the University of Louisville achieved victory last night and some other team was forced to accept defeat.  From the small details I’ve picked up here and there, that other team, Michigan something I think, played well enough, but just couldn’t quite hack it.  Obviously, my sports knowledge is lacking, but I’d say at this point that pretty much covers the basics.

I’m not a sports person, but I think even if I were my mind would have been elsewhere as I rose this morning.  As I look out across my front yard at the world coming to life with the many-thousandth springtime miracle, my thoughts are drawn away to death and defeat. 

For the past few weeks, I’ve considered our adversary, Satan, and how he works on us.  How he goes to and fro.  How he seeks our children, our families, our churches, each of us… to devour us.  How he uses whatever tool he can coil around to destroy us.  For some it’s an ax and he cuts us down with one fell swoop.  For some it’s a hammer and pick… just one chip at a time until we’re unrecognizable even to ourselves.  For some it’s nothing more than a pair of distorting glasses, so that everything we might recognize as true or pure or just or lovely becomes a lie.  It’s a little different for each one of us, but no one is immune.  We’re never completely safe from his attacks.

Today my heart is aching for our families.  There are situations today and probably at any given time that feel like gaping wounds in our churches.  Sometimes Satan lurks in the shadows, but sometimes he seems to rise up and laugh in our faces.  He uses these situations not only to attempt to destroy those directly involved, but to tempt the rest of us to anger and bitterness.  He tempts us to question God and despair over what’s been broken.  He casts doubt in our minds and tries to persuade us that our trust in misguided.  He tempts us to believe that he is the one in charge.

He tries to make us accept defeat.

If you’ll forgive another attempt at sports lingo, we don’t have to wait until the final buzzer to know which side gets the W.  We have a guard against Satan’s ax.  His pick and hammer may chink away at our minds, but there’s a part of us that he’ll never change… or even touch! He can try, and maybe even succeed sometimes, to distort what’s true, but we have a Book full of promises and a God who never changes.

Jesus achieved victory.  And not over death alone, but over all sin.  Over every single thing that causes us grief or heartache.  The things that destroy us.  The things that tear families apart.  The things that tear churches apart.  Doubt, distrust, despair, anger, bitterness, jealousy, loneliness, fear.  All the things that break our hearts in this life.  Jesus defeated all those things.

And as impossible as it may seem in some situations, God is still the repairer of broken things.  His grace is still sufficient to reconcile sinful men and women.  He is still big enough to put things right.

I would exhort all of us today and everyday…

Pray.  God hears.  No matter your age, no matter your station in life, no matter how far you may be from God… pray.

Put Satan back in the shadows.  He flees from those who resist him.  Tell him to get out of your home and that he’s not welcome there.  And don’t invite him back in.

Guard your hearts.  Even the most careful, most godly people fall prey to those fiery darts.

Jealously protect your families.  We are the target.

Don’t despair.  He’s overcome the world.  He’s able in all things.

And when you’re tempted… remember, For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to [help] them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).