Of Vain Regrets

Regret Quote
There is a grief that’s common to all and inescapable. The sense of loss, missing someone who’s gone on, regretting you won’t be able to turn to them anymore. No more phone chats, no more visits over coffee, no more celebrations or sharing memories.

And there’s a grief that wants to depress us. Everyone feels regret or remorse at times, that sense of having done wrong or missed opportunities that will now never be recaptured or enjoyed. But this kind of grieving can become chronic and swallow us whole.

Sometimes a person does need to ponder what they could/should have done different, to repent; and make amends where possible. At times we need to say “I’m sorry. I was wrong to do or say that.” It really pays to understand how we could do better the next time and make positive changes, be more respectful, develop a softer way of expression our opinions, etc.

The night we got home from my sister’s funeral I couldn’t sleep well, understandably, and felt so blue. Mine was a combination of both griefs: the sorrow of “she’s not there anymore” and regret for lost chances. Why didn’t I do more, call more, visit more…about the really important things of life? Why didn’t I say “I love you, I appreciate you”?

I felt the need to read something upbeat, and spotted an old Our Daily Bread devotional magazine lying in the bathroom. Someone had once given me a bunch and I pull a few out now and then for “bathroom reading.” Seeing it was the January 1978 issue, I turned to the Jan 1 page and read “THE FORWARD LOOK.”

Included was this poem — and it seemed just what I needed at that moment. Googling, I see this verse was published in the mid-1800s and lists M.H.W. as the author.

The past is o’er;
waste not thy days in vain regret,
grieve thou no more.
Look now before
and not behind thee; do not fret,
the past is o’er.
Thy pain is sore,
and thou hast cause for sorrow yet;
grieve thou no more.
Close memory’s door;
that day is dead, that sun has set —
the past is o’er.
There are in store
for thee still happy days. Forget!
Grieve thou no more.
Smile as of yore–
no longer let thine eyes be wet,
the past is o’er.
Grieve thou no more!

I took this as a message from the Lord to me, one that I needed to hear at that moment. While I won’t stop missing Rose or regret we can no longer communicate, I need to shut the door on that insatiable remorse of “I should have…” For one thing, it’s actually a self-centered grief. For another, I can’t improve the past one speck by regretting it.

“Where to from here?” is a better question than “Why didn’t I?”

Ragtag Daily Prompt: SHUT

 

Sister’s Last Good-Bye

Yesterday we as a family gathered to say our last good-bye to our sister Rose. Our son-in-law and daughter drove us down for the Celebration of Life, which was held at Moose Jaw. This was directed by a Celebrant who read the write-up of her life the family had written out. Then her oldest daughter came to the mike and read her memories of Mom, at times with a smile and at times pausing while the tear flowed.

I learned some interesting things I hadn’t known about my sister, including the fact that she and her husband met on a blind date set up by friends. She was only fifteen-and-a-half but it must have been love at first sight. Only six weeks later he popped the question in a unique way, simply telling her, “There’s something on the kitchen table for you.” She went to look, saw the small box and said, “YES!”

After the service there were hugs and tears and a lunch at the reception hall, where a video was shown. This was a collage of photos of her life and some of those photos brought me to tears. I remember those years, the little girl in some of those pictures.

Watching the years of her life pass in flickers on the screen was hard in a way, because she’s so alive in those scenes. You want to pull her back! There were a few snaps of her childhood and teen years, some from her wedding day. I saw a few showing some of us siblings together, a couple showing our parents, us as a family together at her house after our dad’s funeral. These were interspersed with many pictures of them as a young couple, growing older, travelling. We saw her two daughters at birth, as teens, their weddings, then them as parents; with many shots of the extended family and/or Rose holding and playing with her grandchildren. A lifetime well lived and enjoyed.

As I’ve already said, Rose was the only sibling I’ve had steady contact with through the years; the others I met more often in passing at functions. I will definitely miss her and that continuing family contact.

Perhaps because of those pictures, last night life as a whole took on a dream-like feeling. This present life seems like a flowing stream of incidents, scenes viewed from a train window as we speed through time. The world waiting on the other side seems like the true solid ground.

I’ve a cousin who says there’s no life beyond this one. You die; that’s it. Lights out. As a Christian I accept the Bible teaching on Heaven, but most people of various faiths do believe in, or at least hope for, a land of peace and light on the other side. People who have been revived after clinical death claim to have experienced some life after their last breath. All hallucinations?

At the service we were told that Rose definitely believed in a life after this one. The names of other family members were mentioned, people Rose would be meeting and joining over there. As the poet, Fanny Crosby, wrote, “Oh, the dear ones in glory how they beckon me to come, and their parting at the river I recall.”

After the lunch, siblings and spouses of Rose and her husband, their daughters and families, had a little service at the crematorium. Another round of tears and hugs, then her ashes were left there and we joined the extended family members at a lunch at her oldest daughter’s home. So now the day is over, except for the quiet grieving we’ll all go through.

Christmas Blessings to All

ALL IN GOD’S PLAN

“There went out a decree from Caesar Augustus…and all went…every one into his own city…” (Luke 2:1-3)
All in God’s plan. It seems that God wanted the whole world turned upside down for the birth of His Son! All over the known world folks had to make a journey to the place of their birth.

Just like today. The Christ-child wants to be born in our hearts, but before that can happen our life must be turned upside down. That which we hold in high esteem must come crashing to the ground. The way that we would most despise — the way of humility — must become the only one we want to take. That which is hidden deep within us must be brought to the Light. In a sense we come back to the place of our birth and realize we need to take a different path — His way.

“And Joseph also went up…with Mary, his espoused wife…”
All in God’s plan. Joseph and Mary had a destiny and God watched over them as they journeyed among the crowds of people. To fulfill His promise to His servant David, His Son must be born in Bethlehem. Did they sense what an important part they would have in history? Who could have known that what happened to those two ordinary, humble people in an insignificant village would change many people’s lives the world over?

Just like today. God has made His promise to man that “whosoever will may come” and He intends to fulfill this in our lives. He watches as we journey among the crowds of people and slowly He brings us to a crossroads, a place of choosing. Then, if we then choose to walk with Him, the Christ-child is born in our hearts. This gives us a destiny–and how can we know what an important part we may play in changing the course of other people’s lives?

“…Because there was no room for them in the inn.”
All in God’s plan. Not just so people could fault the poor innkeeper all these years for being so hard-hearted. Rather, it seems that God did not want His Son to be born in the inn — as a GUEST — perhaps in the company of the important and well-to-do. In His birth Jesus had not even a room or a bed and in the years of His ministry He had no place to lay His head. He was totally an outsider in this world.

Just like today. Each year at Christmas the normal events of life are disrupted for a season as folks go to and fro, buying gifts, decorating houses and stores, travelling home to their families, gathering for feasting, partying, and generally making merry. But the work God seeks to do in our hearts is something apart from all this. He comes quietly, at any time of the year, whenever a seeking soul opens his heart to Jesus.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to Him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev 3:20)

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Life In A Dark Bubble

Yesterday’s Word of the Day prompt was BUBBLE. I’m coming in rather late here, but this is my response.

paranoia
life in a dark bubble
everybody hates me

mind-767584_640
Image by Gerd Altmann

Not long before this prompt came up, I’d an account I wrote some years ago about a woman I met on a trip we took. She likely would have been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic — if she’d ever sought medical help. It sounds like her doctors had suggested mental illness, but why should she listen to doctors when they’ve all been ordered by the government to destroy people like her? Another man friend tried drugs, but hated the side effects.

I’ve visited with several afflicted ones over the years, enough to give me some picture of what their world must be like. I know there’s a wide range of symptoms and reactions to treatment, but here’s my non-medical insight, for what it’s worth.

“When I was in the hospital,” this woman explained to me, her eyes shining, “they did experiments on me. They poison a person with mercury. The mercury slowly comes out of you through your skin, you know; I see little silver drops on my carpet all the time.”

What could I say? You’re imagining this? But she wasn’t. She actually saw these drops. Just as someone else saw an upside-down cross on a hospital curtain one night — a sure omen of evil to come. Who can understand why or how the mind perceives silver drops, or beetles on all the plants, or people pulling their hair in the night? For the sufferer, the only “logical” explanation is that someone is trying to drive them mad. Once mad, they’ll be taken to the psych ward and quietly disposed of.

“There are two kinds of people in this world,” another fearful person told me years ago. “Those who wish I was dead, and those who think I already am.”

“Most of the people in this world don’t even know you exist,” I replied. However, that’s reality, and reality usually doesn’t cut through such fear. I wasted my breath.

Many, many times people trying to help a person through their hallucinations waste their breath trying to explain that, “No, it isn’t what you imagine. You still have all your hair; no one has pulled it out.”

I’ve learned that my rational explanations will never combat paranoia; they just can’t pierce that bubble of fear. The afflicted, be they on welfare, members of ethnic minorities, Christians, or whatever else makes them unique, see themselves as slated for destruction — and no one recognizes the danger they’re in. If you don’t agree, if you won’t see how the government is out to destroy people like them, you are either burying your head in the sand or you’re delusional.

Sadly, some misguided religious people see all mental illness as “demonic” and their answer is some type of exorcism. This is usually a double whammy for the sufferers. Not only are they NOT cured by this ritual, plus now they live with the guilt of being possessed by evil spirits, and/or the thought that God must have given up on them, too.

From what I’ve observed, medication has had limited success in treating this type of mental illness. Some works great — for a time. There is some healing in the aging process. I once read that schizophrenia loses some of its grip on a person’s mind after age fifty. The problem is the dangerous situations they tend to live in, often being homeless and isolating themselves.

Another friend of mine who has suffered from fears very much through the years became a Christian in her twenties and the words that help her the most are the scriptures about God looking after his own. He does see, He does care, and He has looked after her amazingly well in her circumstances. When she calls me, greatly distressed because something suspicious happened, or someone said something threatening, we talk about the day when the trials of this life will be behind us and we’ll live in Heaven, safe from evil, free from care. Focusing on that better place makes the troubles of this world more bearable.

His Consecrated Car

He rarely speaks before a crowd;
he doesn’t teach a class;
but when he comes to Sunday school
he brings his friends en masse.

He cannot sing to save his life,
and stammers when he prays;
but always his jalopy is
just crammed on each Lord’s Day.

So, though he’ll seldom sing or teach
or boldly lead in prayer,
he listens well, he wears a smile,
and he is always there.

and offers rides to all who’ll come
collects folks near and far;
God’s work is greatly prospered by
his consecrated car.

Reading & Musing on a Sunday Morning

I was reading a passage of scripture this morning and decided to write my thoughts down, in case anyone is interested.

II Corinthians 12: 2-10

In this account, the Apostle Paul is telling the church members at Corinth about an experience he has had, and the effect this vision has had in his life. He doesn’t name himself, yet Bible scholars agree that he’s telling his own story here.

2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago…such an one caught up to the third heaven.
3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth)
4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Some scholars have read the story of when Paul was stoned and left for dead, wondering if he really did have an out-of-body experience. The Apostle himself isn’t certain, and leaves it open as to whether he was really dead or if this was a vision he had. However, during this experience he saw such beauty and glory, and heard such words as could never be described to an audience here on earth.

5 Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.

So why doesn’t he tell the world about his experience? Why does he refer to it so discreetly, not mentioning that this happened to him? Why does he rather rejoice that he has these infirmities that drag him down? First, he doesn’t want people lifting him up:

6 For though I would desire to glory…now I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth me to be, or that he heareth of me.
7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

Most scholars agree that this “thorn in the flesh” was an infirmity that slowed him down, and probably a disfiguring one. We get the impression from different passages that Paul wasn’t such an attractive man.

8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

God has chosen to leave him weak so that the Spirit of the Lord can speak through him. People aren’t meant to look to Paul for the answers in life. The Lord Jesus doesn’t want people following Paul because he’s physically attractive or such a persuasive orator. So the Lord leaves him with this weakness, one which seems, from other scriptures as well, to be obvious to Paul’s audience.

Paul accepts this situation with grace:
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

It’s so human to want to be strong, to be talented, articulate, to have our listeners nod when we present our ideas. The thought of stepping up to speak, either to an individual or to a crowd, and having absolutely no speech planned out is frightening. The thought of stammering and groping for words is abhorrent to most of us. Likewise we’re inclined to shy away from a task if we’ve had no prior experience in that line. None of us want to sound, or look, dumb.

When we lived in Ontario our neighbour was a minister in another denomination. One day his wife explained to me how ministers were hired. A congregation in need will hear of a pastor who wants to move from the place he’s at, so a small delegation from the pastor-less church goes to hear him —or her, in this group— speak. If the pastor presents a good sermon, if they like the looks of him and feel he’d be a good fit for their own congregation, they offer to hire him. (Again, or her.) How tempting would it be to put a lot of effort into making a good physical impression.

Paul has adopted a different mind-set. In one place he says, “The ways of God are higher than ours.” Aware of his own weakness as a human being, he “takes a step back from himself” and rather goes forward in the Lord. The idea of winning followers of using eloquence to gain a good salary, these are laid aside. He doesn’t take pains to please the audience or “keep out of trouble.” He rather lets the words of Jesus flow through him and speak to the hearts of his audience.

This is more pleasing to God and the Gospel more effective, than if Paul could attract listeners and entertain them with his own oratory ability, or persuade them by his skillful reasoning. He leaves us this example, so none of us can feel we’ve nothing to offer. When we feel we have no talent, skills, physical attraction, or never “the right words,” we can comfort ourselves God’s words to Paul: “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”