Passover?

Is celebrating Passover an affront to the Lord? I have Christian family members who celebrate Passover, remembering their “Jewish roots,” and, yes, the Savior it points to. I wonder what the Lord thinks of this. No offense intended, but are those who celebrate the “shadow,” just re-creating acts of people who were still in darkness? I mean, I understand people celebrating a shadow because they can’t see past it to the substance. Who, year after year, remember a time when God led them out of bondage – freed them – pointing to and hoping for a greater, MUCH greater, salvation yet to come. Well, GOOD NEWS! SALVATION HAS COME!

There is something of the greatest significance to celebrate this week – and to let it humble us. God allowed his only begotten son to suffer for us – for us! – to be a sacrifice, a perfect lamb, slain, crucified, beaten, mocked. There was no greater darkness than the darkness that fell on that day. But oh, the light that came – that shown in the tomb, that radiated from the face of Jesus. There is no greater light, except the fullness of the light we will see in heaven one day. One day soon, maybe – we never know…could be today. But that is certainly worth celebrating.

I am humbled and saddened today, quieted, remembering the events which led up to Easter…and Christ knowing every step of the way what was to come. How could so much be given for us? How could the Son truly, willingly, empty himself, not grasping after equality with God, but humbling himself to do the Father’s will?

Philippians 2:8 – “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

But wait, here’s the rest of the story…

Philippians 2:9-11 – “Therefore, God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Amen. Think about it. The perfect came, and opened the pathway to our eternal salvation, and the assurance of knowing again that communion with the Father that was ours at creation. No more Passover lambs required. Now that is something to celebrate – every day!

The Lady Across the Hall

Softly her cries came to me, the lady across the hall, breaking into my world in a profound way. Usually she was known to me only as the lady in the pink bathrobe and slippers, whom I would see sometimes standing in her doorway watching, sometimes greeting passersby she recognized…then retreating again behind a half-closed door. It seemed to me that she lived in her own world, in that room across the hall, which, from my bed was as good as being a mile away.

Then one morning I heard animated chatter and looked to see an aide congratulating her and she was smiling and saying “thank you, thank you.”  Later she reappeared in her doorway and she had on shoes, and pants and a top…and she was grinning from ear-to-ear! It was then I overheard her say to some aide, “yes, the doctor said this morning I could go home!” I was happy for her, because after a while in a rehab center, what everyone seems to want most is to go home.

So throughout the day, as I was being wheeled here and there, I would see her excitedly waiting, and I would smile. She had a bag packed on the floor by her bed, and she was ready! But the day wore on, and I started wondering why she was still there. Why hadn’t anyone come to pick her up? It was later in the day that I overheard the phone call, someone finally reached, and the anger and frustration in her voice, and the sadness, when I heard her say, “well, when can you come?” Whoever it was wasn’t coming this day. And the dinner cart came and she closed her door.

Much later, when I had turned out my light and quietness had settled on our hallway, her cries came softly, floating up through her ceiling, across the hall and down into my room. And with this, my heart, which had ached for her all afternoon, finally broke. People just don’t know, I thought, what’s it’s like to feel helpless and at the mercy of others…whether it’s an aide having a bad day, or the meds cart laboriously making its way to your room with pain relief, or a young nurse-in-training who doesn’t know how to put on compression stockings, or even a family member. They can’t know. They won’t know until they experience it. So I just began praying for this woman who was alone across the hall…for her comfort and peace. I wanted her to know that God is always near. He knows, He sees, and He comforts.

Before I fell asleep, I heard the sound of a gentle knock and her door being opened, and a soft voice seeking her out, coming alongside. Someone had stepped into her darkness. Someone was comforting her. And I fell asleep comforted as well.

I Got Rhythm…

When I used to stress out over juggling tasks at home and work, the title of a musical from the sixties would often cross my mind…“Stop the World – I Want to Get Off”! It seemed the world was speeding up, and I just wanted to find a place to breathe. So all of a sudden I retire, and the world does stop. Well, not entirely, but it slows to a snail’s pace. And what do I do? I start trying to map out days according to the clock, as before. And I start creating To Do lists, as before. And start over-committing, maybe? So, not surprisingly, I started hearing that old musical title again. But this time, hearing it crop up again once was enough. I knew I didn’t want to go there. But where?

Remember that little booklet, Tyranny of the Urgent!, by Charles E. Hummel? Well, since retiring, I have found there is precious little that is truly urgent in my life. So I wondered, why am I slamming myself against a clock? Then a friend mentioned to me that she had heard it can take a year or so after retirement sometimes to truly find your “rhythm.” I had a little light-bulb moment…my rhythm?… my rhythm? I had no idea what this was. It seemed I had only known “the clock” for so long. Even my old Saturdays were jam packed with To Do’s. Now I was treating every new day at home as if it were one of my old Saturdays!

Recently, I was invited over for lunch by a friend who lives on the far side of town, where you can have horses in your backyard – a quiet, peaceful place. So what do I do? I feel like I can (must?) get a load of laundry done before I go. And at some point after lunch, I feel like it’s time to get up and go. That’s what you do after lunch…you hurry back to what you were doing. Time out. We had had a lovely walk through her gardens and around the barn, and a leisurely lunch on the sun porch, while watching butterflies outside the picture window. I could have stayed and continued our conversation for as long as I had wanted actually. My friend has been retired for a couple of years now, and I must say, she has learned to relax. But I had internalized the wall clock and it was telling me to get up and go.

Slowly, I’m realizing that even though I have a To Do list, I can work through it at my own pace, which can’t always be plotted out on paper in advance. The “rhythm” of this new life is mine to discover. Take a deep breath. Breathe…

I don’t know how much “I got rhythm” yet, but I do know that song will be in my head (and making me smile) for the rest of the day!

My-neighbor-the-shrub survived my pruning, and is greening up quite nicely!

Till next time. Bj.

Truth wins out…always

I didn’t post on the blog last week…I got depressed. Blindsided by a “perfect storm” of current events meeting up with old wounds, enhanced by a whole list of negatives just waiting in the wings for their chance to be confirmed. There was a time when something like this would have sent me to a dark place for an extended stay. But there has been much work done over the years, and I have found Truth is a powerful weapon. While fellow seniors and retirees don’t hold the title to depression by any means, there is something about perhaps having more time to think, more of a history to reflect upon, maybe a search for a sense of place, that can make us vulnerable.

So, where did this come from, my perfect storm? Only the other day I was helping a friend who was caught in that downward spiral of depression, which is a stubborn darkness.* I was so grateful that I had reached a place where I could help someone else. Then, there I sat…in a pit! – seeing the darkness of it, feeling the physical pain of it, knowing the deception of it, then finding the strength to grab onto the Truth and let it do its work. It is quite a battle. But it can be fought, and won, and you can live on.

I can tell you that God does not always heal us in the way we would choose. Some broken places remain broken, but we walk infused with a different strength…an eternal strength. Some empty spaces are not always filled with what was missing. Sometimes, God steps down from heaven and just lies himself down in the empty space. And we are knit together in a more perfect way.

Don’t think if you walk into a church that all those squeaky clean faces were just born that way. There are warriors there, walking boldly with their wounds, or quietly. These are the people you want around you when the battles come. These are the people who have found that our Master Craftsman is also our Commander in Chief!

From a brighter place, till next time – Bj.

*See Depression: Looking Up From the Stubborn Darkness by Edward T. Welch

U-turns allowed

I painted my nails blue today. I don’t know why. It seemed like it would be a fun thing to do. I’m not sure what that says about me…something similar to a 40-something purchasing that red sports car I imagine. Is there such a thing as a “late-life crises?” I mean, 60 is the new 40, I’ve heard. As in mid-life, I think there may be a sense that you’re approaching an age you don’t feel ready for yet, don’t want to be ready for yet, and are searching for something that might help you make a U-turn before it’s too late. What can I do that’s really “young?” Because you never really feel any older on the inside. And you just would like to give the outside a little reminder of that fact. It keeps wanting to age! Hence the blue nails, I guess. Silly…they’ll probably be gone in a few days. But fun in a way.

Maybe it’s because I have been struggling with this retirement situation for the past week or so. You know how you hear that married couples will often divorce within a year of one of them retiring home to be with the other spouse full-time? Well, I totally get it. After the third week at home I was ready to divorce myself! It was one thing to deal with myself before and after work, but all day? I mean, I was fun, even interesting for a while. I had drafted a little routine, and had set some goals. But then reality began sinking in. I realized that I can easily step off the grid. I often don’t do what I say I’m going to do, I procrastinate, get distracted, take forever to finish a project. I stay up too late, then I get up late. I don’t plan ahead very well, but still have many things I want to do. So, I spend time turning in circles trying to decide what to do, what it is I should be doing. It’s that “should” word that’s a little tricky. And most of the days have lost their identity! Saturday is no longer Saturday. It’s no different than Monday or Tuesday, really. And no longer is there that great, kick off your shoes sigh of relief at the end of the day on Friday. It’s pretty much like Wednesday or Thursday at 5:00. So, it’s a whole new grid, and I’m not just trying to learn it, I’m trying to define it!

Oh, the adventure of it all. Crafting a new life, really. I finally did find peace in it, though. I remembered that there is a Master Craftsman who is pleased to mentor me through this project! And with that thought came a really big, 5:00 Friday kind of sigh.

Till next time…Bj.

Ouch…

Well, it’s official – again – I have become my mother, in a rather unexpected way (aren’t they all unexpected?). Early this morning after coffee, I walked out my back door to the laundry room thinking I would just put in a load of clothes before breakfast. On the way back in I noticed the morning actually felt cool, which caused me to pause, this being September in Florida. So I walked out into the backyard to just take in the green a bit. It’s so pretty in morning light, which was just beginning to break through my neighbor’s oak tree to light up the ferns on the other side of my yard.  I noticed that sometime over the hot summer, the neighbor’s oak had spread limbs over a corner bed. Actually, it was the only bed that would have any flowers in it, so this much shade wouldn’t do. It would only take a minute to chop those scraggly limbs off, I thought.  So I got gloves and long clippers from the laundry room and started in on the limbs. Then I noticed a lone stalk of bamboo, just crossing over the line into my yard. Better to nip that in the bud for sure!

None of this took very long, so I just stacked the limbs on the deck for another day and started to go in. But I noticed the mess that had grown up on the other side of the fence by the drive, spilling into my carport and driveway. I had been wanting to prune that back across the fence for my neighbor for a while. I don’t think she even lives there anymore. She came back periodically for a while, but then she stopped even sending the yard man to mow. (The city did finally make someone come mow.) Anyway, every year her yard man would prune those whatever-they-are, and they would send up new, long shoots that topped out with yellow flowers, brilliant against a clear blue sky. I took pictures of them one year from my backyard. So it bothered me that no one was pruning them this year.

While I just intended to cut back the limbs that hung over the fence, I kept on going and pruned the limbs at the end of the fence as well. And it was just a few more steps to prune around the corner of the fence, without actually going through the gate into her backyard. But then, the gate was standing open. So I just stepped in a little to reach those few, very tall last branches. OK, I was officially trespassing at this point and I knew it. I just prayed I didn’t get tangled up and fall over all these limbs that had piled up and get hurt. That would be a mess not worth making.

And I was making a mess. I didn’t realize how tall these limbs were until they lay flat out across my driveway. The sun had gotten higher, it was getting hotter, and I knew I had to cut those limbs up and throw them somewhere or I wouldn’t be able to back the car out. So, dripping with sweat – I mean literally dripping – I kept cutting and hauling. I stopped for a minute, pondering while I caught my breath about how God had blessed us with sweat. When the breeze blows across it, it has a cooling effect on the skin. And He even provided us with eyebrows so it wouldn’t run into our eyes!

And it was at that moment, that I had this vivid picture of my mother in our backyard. She was hard into yard work, covered in sweat, and happy as anyone striving toward a vision could be! But she was, let us say, dressed comfortably…and in a cotton blouse. This teenager was duly horrified…and quick to correct her about this when she came inside, too.  And now, here I stood in my driveway, dripping sweat, intent on the work because I could see the payoff…and I was, shall we say, dressed comfortably? I had not started out to do yard work. I was going to have breakfast. But in that moment, I saw my mother in me, and I heard that teenager’s words of correction. Ouch.

Oh, the things I would tell that teenager…and the things I would say to my mother now. Sometimes you literally have to be in the other person’s shoes to understand. And isn’t it true you usually have a lot more mercy when it’s you? Yes, fleeting memories can be teachable moments. I decided to stay and use the push broom as well before going in.

Clothes do not the woman make, but…

What do you wear when you stay at home? I have mostly clothes for work or church, and clothes for Saturday…grungy for chores, a little nicer for errands. Not too much in between. Pondering this dilemma my first day of “retirement,” I chose Saturday errands clothes, but opted out of makeup and didn’t try too hard on the hair. Which would have been just fine, had I stayed at home. But I had been paying bills all morning, and had come to the pleasant realization that I could just go to the post office and put them in the mail. No putting them aside and trying to remember to mail them either at lunch or after work. I could even go in and buy stamps! I could wrap that birthday gift for my sister-in-law and put that in the mail, too! Such freedom! I smiled all the way to the post office.

So, I’m happily making other stops as well, not paying any attention to the time, until I pull into the grocery store parking lot. At this point I realize that it is after 5pm, when people from work run in on their way home. That would be…all the women in suits and heels and otherwise put-together outfits. How had I let myself do this?! I had dressed for the stay-at-home, out-of-sight arena and had placed myself, just by a click of the clock, into the dressed-for-success arena. I really did want to hide, but had to go in and just hoped I wouldn’t see anyone I knew.

Actually, I did run into a friend inside who had already gone home and changed. Yaaay! She looked comfortable and I felt moreso. OK, maybe this shouldn’t have been a problem, but it was my first day and I wasn’t too comfortable in my new “retirement” skin yet. Clearly, makeup would have been in order, though, at least. Or maybe not. I’ll have to see.