HOPE: Our Life’s Anchor

Fandango’s one-word  prompt yesterday was ANCHOR.

When I saw that word I sat down and let my mind — and fingers  — contemplate the subject. I came up with this writing before we left for church, thinking I’d have time to post it sometime during the day — but then our day turned out quite full. Anyway, here are my thoughts.

And now I can work in Fandango’s latest one-word prompt: FRAGILE,
An anchor cannot be a fragile thing. It hooks among the seabed rocks close to the shore and holds on for dear life. The anchor, and the line that holds it to the ship, are responsible for the lives of all those on board. Anchors and ropes are tested to be sure they’ll stand the strain.

When I saw the word ANCHOR, I immediately thought of that line in the old hymn, Whispering Hope.
“Hope, as an anchor so steadfast….”

Isn’t that the truth! Often the quality of our life is wrapped around HOPE:
the sick live with the hope of better days ahead,
the depressed carry on in the hope of brighter times to come
the poor live in hope of finding financial stability
the destitute live in hopes of a home, or at least a safe location
those who believe in a merciful Creator hope for an eternal reward
the grieving embrace the hope that their loved ones are in a better world now, or at least no longer suffer
and almost everyone lives in hope of finding and maintaining love, friendships, family ties.

Like an anchor keeps a ship from drifting off course in a storm, so hope keeps us heading in the direction of our life-goal, keeps us from being blown off course by gales of circumstance.

Hope anchors most of our actions; without it our days turn into a pointless, emotion-driven meander. Should our hope be a fragile thing, should it break as soon as adversity comes, courage usually fails and our ship might be tossed on a wild sea before we land in a quite spot again.

In extreme cases depressed people curl up in a fetal position and die. Mentally, people crawl into a shell when they’ve lost hope. Physically they cease to take care of their bodies and often fall into substance abuse.

An ANCHOR we need in this turbulent world
— and HOPE is a vital part of that anchor.

When Jesus walked this earth, He offered this promise: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls…” (Matt 12:29) He knew that finding this “rest for your souls” — peace of mind, freedom from guilt and fear — is one of humanity’s greatest needs. One of the best anchors in life.

He didn’t come to offer a guilt-riddled set of rules. (For some reason we humans naturally tend to gravitate towards religious systems that offer heaps of Dos and Don’ts.) Neither did He come to promote the freedom to do whatever we want, without conscience, using and stomping on other people to fulfill our own desires.

On second thought, He did give us some rules:
Turn the other cheek. Go the second mile. Forgive. Don’t hold grudges. Freely give. Respect your elders. Show kindness to the widows, orphans, and strangers among you. Don’t be a hypocrite. Don’t make rules for other people that you can’t even keep yourselves.

Most people seem to know that these are good rules. that they’ll give folks a happy, stress-free life such as we all hope for.

One more thing about HOPE: It’s one of those beautiful “multiplying” qualities: a person can freely offer their hope to others without diminishing their own supply.

Has someone shared HOPE with you lately? Have you shared yours?

Freedom From Anxiety

Lilies

“And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

In Matthew 6:25-30, Jesus taught his disciples not to be overly wrapped up with concern about their daily needs, because God is watching over them and knows what they need. He never said they could just loaf around and everything would be provided, but constant preoccupation with needs is a menace to a person’s mind and spirit.

I’ve written these verses in my own words for anyone who’s interested:

Don’t obsess over the things of this life, like what you’re going to eat or what you’re going to wear. Your life is about more than food and clothes.

Take a look at the birds: they don’t spend a lot of time laying up food supplies, thinking of deprivations that might lie ahead. But God, Who sees all things that go on in this world, knows they need food and provides for them in whatever season. And you people are so much more precious to him than birds. Trust him.

Tell me, can any of you, by worry or scheming, grow a few inches taller? And why spend a lot of time dithering over what you should wear. Consider the lilies, they can’t buy nor sew nor weave, but God has provided them with such intricate attire that even Solomon, with all the glory his riches could buy, couldn’t hold a candle to their beauty.

So if your Father in heaven has provided so well for insignificant wild flowers and the grass that grows in the field for a season, then is gathered and used as fuel, how much more can He look after your needs. Have more faith.

Those who haven’t learned to know him will chase after these things, but you should rather focus your attention on matters of the soul and trust your Father to look after the other.

Lily bloom

Another response to the Ragtag community prompt word: FREEDOM

A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

A Carful of Puzzles

A Bit of Local News

This week, just for fun, I planned a Puzzle Exchange evening at Silverwood Villa retirement home. Spring isn’t the best time for jigsaw puzzle exchanges, with folks starting to think of yard work, but the event gave the residents a chance to enjoy some evening company. I had a number of jigsaw puzzles I wanted to give away and I knew quite a few have been collecting at the Villa, done and put in storage. So I planned the event for yesterday evening and invited everyone who wanted to come.

The invitation was to bring puzzles to exchange, to give away, or just come and get free puzzles. I took a few of my African violets to give away as well. (They seem to multiply so rapidly at my house.) To top off the affair nicely, my books finally came.

On Jan 26th I ordered the first twelve print copies of Silver Morning Song, from Amazon. They were shipped — and never arrived. After a month of eager waiting, I wrote to the company and they said, “Sorry about that. We’ll send replacements.” So they shipped twelve more — and THEY never arrived.

I was getting rather discouraged and beginning to wonder if I should just abandon the project. I notified the company again and they were very good about it. They refunded my purchase price and the agent also instructed me to order again, requesting the fastest shipping, and he’d waive the extra charge for that. So I ordered forty books at the beginning of April — and was beginning to wonder why these weren’t coming, either.

I had an answer on Monday: they hadn’t been shipped yet. On Monday Amazon notified me that they’d shipped my books from Baltimore, using the DHL shipping company. They arrived in four days — pretty fast! So now I can tell the world, my book is AVAILABLE in a print edition and I have copies to sell. 🙂

Or you can order a copy of Silver Morning Song from Amazon.com, and e-books from either Amazon or Kobo.

Back to the puzzle exchange. I brought my puzzles; some other folks brought theirs; one Villa resident’s family contributed forty-some that he’s already done. We had the dining room whole table full, stacked several deep! But there wasn’t a large turnout; three local couples, three ladies, three Villa residents, plus ourselves.

Several people took home a few puzzles each and about half a dozen stayed at the Villa. As to the rest, we have about six boxes and a couple of bags in our car at the moment. I have an appointment in the city today, so will drop these off at Value Village. In addition I sold six books and five of my African violets found new homes.

A good visit was had by all who attended. 🙂

Personal Note:

For the past while I’ve been thinking of giving up blogging — maybe even giving up writing — for a time. Lately I’ve been drowning in a sea of recriminations. It’s taken me awhile to even identify what I’m feeling, but this is how I can best explain it. And I realize it’s nothing new; maybe it just goes with the terrain of OCD my mind is so often bouncing over?

Feels like being crushed under an mountainous “To-Do” list — or rather a mountain of “This should have been done last week, last month, last year, and wasn’t. How undisciplined! Never accomplish anything!” I’m supposed to be editing my book for teens, but stalled after Chapter 4. For sure I have no time to waste writing, so much other stuff must be finished first. Yet that doesn’t happen, either, when you’re feeling suffocated. Do any of you other readers have spells like that?

Anyway, I decided to just do simple blog posts until this dark cloud passes. I trust it will in time. First thing this morning I was contemplating all my failings in general when the line of a song came to me. “Jesus paid it all…” ALL can be forgiven. Precious thought! Like a lifesaver to a drowning person. I grabbed that thought and want to hang onto it. 🙂

Theories Can Crash and Burn

What Is Truth?

The two neatly dressed young men stood on my doorstep, ready to discuss various problems of society and offer their solution. They were well versed on issues of eternal consequence as well. Had I been open to instruction they’d have no doubt produced their Book of Mormon, ready to enlighten me.

Over the years I’ve observed a few things about human nature and beliefs, right and wrong. We talked a bit and I told them, “I believe if we really love the Truth above all — if we love it so much we’re willing to let truth delete all our pet theories and reasoning — God will show us what is true and we’ll make it to Heaven someday.”

One of my young listeners spoke up and quite sincerely agreed with me.

So there we stood, the Mennonite and the Mormons, totally disagreed on doctrine yet agreed on something vital. The power of God. The ability and willingness of God to enlighten seeking humans. Our ability to grasp it — if we let go of our own formulations.

Having just come through Easter season, we’ve been reminded of Jesus standing in Pilate’s Judgement Hall. Again we hear Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

He didn’t ask this because he really wanted to know. If you read the account you realize that Pilate knew full well what the facts were in this case. His question was really a sigh of frustration. a wish that truth would be more convenient for the situation he was facing.

This question has replayed through all ages, all issues, all human minds. Where in all this muddle of logic, feelings, rhetoric, and examples, do I find the truth?

Logic, Passion, Rhetoric, Reality

I’ve been pondering a variety of issues in the past few days, choosing certain avenues and exploring the adjoining side streets. What started this process was seeing a recently-published book on the Prohibition years in North America. In fact I bought it and am eager to read this writer’s take on the great experiment. A theory that should have worked — but instead crashed and burned.

Twenty-odd years back I did a study of the Women’s Movement both here and in Britain, mainly because of a friend who was really enthused about the subject. What we call the Women’s Movement today built up momentum in the late 1800s with a demand that the right to vote be extended to women. One arm of this movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTM), threw their weight behind this demand and gave the movement a lot of its rhetoric. They did not give the movement its ultimate direction.

Once women gained the right to vote, the WCTM focussed on pushing through Prohibition laws. As my friend explained, “Their hearts were in the right place.” They saw how many women and children were victims of poverty and abuse because the father, the family breadwinner, was at the mercy of his “thirst.” The WCTU wanted to rescue destitute families and relieve suffering caused by alcoholism. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. And they used some powerful, logical rhetoric.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
Etc.
From “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”
by Joseph Malins (1895)

Pondering the obvious failure of Prohibition started me thinking about the difference between Theory, Rhetoric, and Fact. Why so some things work so well in theory and not in fact? Skillful use of rhetoric fires people up, seemingly everyone gets on board, this is going to work — then what goes wrong?

To be continued.

Wishing You A Blessed Easter

Crosses.jpg

Who Is This?

by William Walsham How
1823 – 1897

Who is this so weak and helpless,
child of lowly Hebrew maid,
rudely in a stable sheltered,
coldly in a manger laid?
This the Lord of all creation,
who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting
and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
walking sadly life’s hard way,
homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
over sin and Satan’s sway?
This our God, our glorious Saviour,
who above the starry sky
now for us a place prepareth,
where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘Tis our God, who gifts and graces
on his Church now poureth down;
who shall smite in righteous judgement
all his foes beneath his throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying
while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
numbered with the malefactors,
torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis our God, who ever liveth
‘mid the shining ones on high,
in the glorious golden city,
reigning everlastingly.

Set to music by John Ambrose Lloyd the elder.

These Small Things

By Helen Welshimer
1902–1954; American journalist, writer and poet

He did not have a house where He could go
when it was night; when other men went down
small streets where children watched with eager eyes,
each one assured of shelter in the town,
The Christ sought refuge anywhere at all–
a house, an inn, the roadside, or a stall!

He borrowed the boat in which He rode that day
He talked to throngs along the eastern lake;
it was a rented room to which He called
the chosen twelve the night He bid them break
the loaf with Him, and He rode, unafraid,
another’s colt in that triumph-parade.

A man from Arimathea had a tomb
where Christ was placed when nails had done their deed.
Not ever in the crowded days He knew
did He have coins to satisfy a need.
They should not matter – these small things I crave –
make me forget them, Father, and be brave.