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?

A Fellow Who Brightened His Corner

Back in the 1960s a man named Jimmy Hamilton was going about his small region of Scotland doing good. He was travelling miles every week to make his rounds of nine hospitals, spreading sunshine. He’d go through the wards, taking a few minutes to stop and chat at the bedsides of those who seemed to need a visit. And folks blessed him for it.

He began this interesting “hobby” after he, as a young man, had to spend some time in a local hospital himself. While there he realized what a lonely place a hospital can be, especially for those with no close kin to pop in and see them, and he resolved to do something to what he could to cheer up a few of these folks. After he was discharged he began coming back as a visitor.

Thus his little mission started in a small way, but soon grew as he visited various hospitals in Motherwell, his own home. Jimmy was a ray of hope: he’d sit by a patient’s bed; show a kind interest in the folks; share little stories to make them smile again. His visits were so effective that surgeons would send for him to visit a depressed patient.

When he first began he made use of the local buses. However, as years went on he expanded his efforts to other hospitals farther and farther away. The many grateful recipients and their families clubbed together to help him with this; they bought him a special car so he could go even farther.

Perhaps Jimmy had a special inroad with folks who feel there’s no hope, for he himself was seriously handicapped. As a boy of three he lost both his legs in a railway accident. When he talked to other patients folks about courage and healing, they knew he’d been there, done that himself. When in despair they felt their useful days were past, Jimmy’s example of finding a small corner and filling it cheerfully was a quiet rebuttal.

Someone may say, “It seems my life has no purpose.” Rest assured, there’s a little task for each of us, something useful we can do for others that will boomerang and cheer us up, too.

Where there’s a will there’s a way. Jimmy has proved it.
.
Story taken from an account in THE FRIENDSHIP BOOK of Francis Gay, 1969 Edition

Looking on the Bright Side

“JUST BROKE”

by Edgar Guest

Nothing’s the matter with Me!
I can see,
I can hear, I can sing, I could climb
up a tree.
I am well, I can eat anything that’s about.
I can run, I can dance,
I can laugh, I can shout,
and I’m blamed if I’ll travel around here and croak
that I’m broke!

My arms are all right;
I can fight!
I can still romp around with the kiddies
at night!
I haven’t neuritis; I haven’t the ‘flu;
I still have a fairly good
foot in each shoe;
I am able to gather the point of a joke;
I’m just broke.

Nothing has happened to me
that I see!
My appetite’s good and I’m strong
as can be!
The wife hasn’t left me, the children are well.
Things are just as they were
when the stock market fell.
I can work, I can play, I can eat, I can smoke.
I’m just broke!

From the book, The Friendly Way
© 1931 by The Reilly & Lee Co.

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 Day at a Time

One Day at a Time

Seventy-year-old Alice took a tumble down the stairs at home and had undergo major surgery to repair broken bones. From what different friends shared when they came to visit her in the hospital, she realized it was going to take her months to fully recover.  A few weeks of being immobilized, then taking it easy for weeks after.

She sighed when she realized she’d need to get a Home Care worker in help her with her own needs and depend on her family to take care of her home. After a few days she felt overwhelmed and depressed. The next time her doctor came around to check on her, she was almost in tears. “How long will I have to be so helpless?”

The doctor answered cheerfully, “Only one day at a time, dear.”

His comforting words dispelled the dark cloud that had settled on her. She didn’t have to be “down and out” for months but rather one day at a time. The thought gave her courage to face the days ahead. She had to remind herself of his words many times, though, during her recovery.

Trust today and leave tomorrow;
each day has enough of care;
so whate’er may be thy burden,
God will give thee strength to bear.
–Anon

Gifts and Children’s Whims

Seasons greetings to all my Readers and Followers.

Is everyone in a “holly jolly Christmas” mood? I wish for you one and all happy holidays with lots of sweet getting-together times. We’re planning to enjoy Christmas dinner with our children and grandchildren and have a gift exchange in the afternoon.

Seems we’re going to have a white Christmas after all. We’ve come through a spell of unseasonably mild temperatures and the snow that fell in November slowly disappeared. In the last few days we’ve gotten a bit more and the temp is dropping.

I haven’t posted anything for a week, trying to get through an un-jolly blue funk. I sometimes feel like I’m swimming through mud, wishing I had lots of energy and enthusiasm but rather feeling exhaustion and depression. Getting stuck in a mire about what little I’ve accomplished versus what all I should be doing.

I find it heartwarming to hear those cheery old Christmas carols like “Joy to the World.” I realize that feelings come and go, will drag us down at times, but the world is singing of great Joy: our God remembers us in all our trials and has sent us a Counselor and Guide. I’ll never be all I should be or do all I should do, but Christmas comes every year to remind us God is ever merciful.

On a happier note, for Friday Fictioneers this week I wrote this story to go with the photo prompt: “The Princess and the Pea Green Hat.” Now I offer a “choose your own ending” for this tale. Read the story and choose which ending you like best of those below. Or add your own in the comments. 🙂

1) Princess loved the hat and wore it everywhere until she outgrew it.

2) She loved it, wore it on their holiday trip, and left it at a MacDonalds 1500 miles from home.

3) She wore it to school once but no one else was wearing a hat like this. Being a sensitive child she refused to wear it again and be called weird.

4) She wore it to school, but so many others were wearing a hat like this, hers wasn’t a novelty at all. Being a sensitive child, she refused to wear it again and look like everybody else.

5) She had a fight with her friend Tiannia, whose Mom knitted the hat, and tossed the thing in a dumpster for spite.

6) She felt sorry for all the poor children who have no hats, so she donated it to a charity.

♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬ ♬

I can sympathize with Princess, her eager-to-please mother and long-suffering father. When it came to Christmas gifts, I was an odd child — or a normal one with very indulgent Aunt & Uncle. (I grew up with them as my parents.) I asked for some ridiculous things, on a whim more or less, and Mom & Dad F (read “Dad” here) bought them for me.

Like when I asked for a typewriter when I was nine, or a microscope when I was ten. Whatever possessed me!? Of course these items were a novelty for a few days after Christmas, then I put them away and seldom looked at them again. (What an ungrateful wretch!)

Much to my parents’ dismay. “You wanted this thing and now you’ve got it and you never play with it!” I felt bad, but I’d completely lost interest. Mom & Dad F were just scraping by; Dad had serious health issues after the War and missed a lot of work for awhile. Only as an adult did I realize the sacrifice they made to get me those things. To top it off, my siblings (raised by our parents) consequently often griped that “Whatever you ask for Uncle Fred buys you.”

Children have such brilliant — but fleeting — whims. For my folks’ sake I wish they’d said, “Forget it. Here’s a doll.” Or I’d had some smarts myself and not asked for expensive novelties. (Though the typewriter did get some use several years later when I was in high school.)

Mind you, they usually gave me the book I wanted, too — often the current Nancy Drew Mystery — and those I appreciated for years. So I have lots of good Christmas memories in addition to a few guilt-trippy ones. 🙂

All I can say now is, give your children and grandchildren whatever you want, but don’t expect undying appreciation. They are children.

She’s Somewhere Else

Dementia

Grandma’s somewhere else
though she sits beside me.
Though I hold her hand
and we chat about little things
she might remember.

I didn’t tell her
it rained again last night,
that fall is here; the trees are bare.

Today’s rain can’t touch her;
Grandma’s somewhere else
where the trees are ever green–
where she barely hears my voice.

— C.G. (2013)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I wrote this story as my Friday Flash Fiction contribution this week.
The exactly-100-words story posted was yesterday on Friday Tales:

A LIGHT LOOK

That streetlight looks so familiar, Adina thought. But where’s Henry? Why has he left me here?

“Mom. Stop!” Adina turned and saw Judy running down the sidewalk toward her.

“You were to stay in the house and wait for me, Mom.”

“But I have to find Dad. We’re supposed to go somewhere.”

Judy took her by the arm. “You have an appointment, remember. I’m taking you. I just stopped for a quick pee first.”

Adina chuckled. “You’re too old to pee, Judy.”

Judy burst out laughing, wiping away a tear. “Come on. Let’s get in the car.”

Why does she cry when she laughs? Adina wondered. What’s wrong with that girl?