Thursday, January 18, 2018

ONE SWEET STORY

An Afternoon Visit 

And One Hidden Sorrow

My mother gave a copy of my book to friends of theirs who were in their 90s. The woman is losing her sight to macular degeneration. Every night the woman's husband would read to her from my book. How precious is that? He read to her, chapter by chapter, until they came to the end, so it took a while. 

After they finished the book, I was invited over to their home for a visit. There were a few questions she wanted to ask me from things I had mentioned in the book. She's a petite woman with gracious ways. We sat in their living room and the lovely conversation began.

Since she isn't able to see well anymore, she told me how she delighted in the details about nature I had described in my book. She said she could see Lookout Point through my eyes. I was asked about my family, my work as a teacher, and some about how I'd worked through troubles in my life. She told me about her family history and her life.

She and I had the most lovely visit. Her husband had baked homemade oatmeal cookies with raisins for us which he offered to us. Later he sent the leftover cookies home with me, and I offered them to the kids who carpooled with me that same afternoon. 

Her husband left us to let us do girl-talk. Over the course of a couple of hours, this elderly couple treated me like royalty. Their smiles were genuine. They were glad to meet me. Beautiful people make you feel welcome. And they did that and more. 

Long into the conversation, the woman shared how she'd also lost a brother the very same way I had lost my sister, to suicide. The subject turned to suicide: what happened, suicide's aftermath, and how you make sense of it. I wondered at the time if that was the real reason I'd been invited. 

I am approached in private when someone has lost a loved one to suicide. Usually it is a hush-hush subject, for good reason. Suicide is difficult to talk about, even after decades. People want answers, but there are no adequate answers. But we can sorrow, and we can hope together. I hope I brought her some measure of comfort.

I left their house with a song in my heart. It had been time well spent. I would meet them a few more times. Every time we would connect in a sweet way. The last time was at his memorial service. I learned a lot more about their life together. I'm so glad I got to meet them in their home. It was a highlight. Again, after the service, she and I talked for awhile, and we both were blessed.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Preacher to Atheist?



The Sad Story

I WAS DOING RESEARCH when I came across a video of an atheist, who, as a younger man, had been a traveling evangelist. He was sharing his personal story of how he lost his faith and became a skeptic and then an avowed atheist. This gentleman was speaking to an audience of atheists and skeptics who appreciated his comments. They cheered at all the digs and arguments against a biblical creation, God-belief, historic and modern day Christianity. His story was like the reverse of someone coming to faith. Doubt began his journey into disbelief. I confess to having pondered some of these same thoughts at different times in my spiritual journey, though not near to the degree.

The atheistic arguments were the usual ones, and they were well reasoned. As I watched him I became fascinated in a strange sort of way. He was charming and entertaining, genuine. Some things he said were absolutely true of Christendom. I had to agree with some of his rationale. He clove an axe into areas of faith where hypocrisy and vulnerability abound, where the Christian argument shows weakness. Repeatedly, I think, it comes down to two things: a person's faith and their belief. These, then, inform the whole idea of 'God,' is there a real God? The question of God's goodness as in 'Is God really a good God?'

Then there is the problem of sin. The speaker built his argument against God and took a swing at the concept of 'original sin.' He asked the audience, "How fair is our human plight when all of humankind is damned because of one man's sin?" It goes something like this; "If original sin is true then we are part of a set-up that is to our disadvantage. How could a good God do that to the human race?"  

That is the argument against God and humans having a relationship with him. Then completing the thought, he supplied his conclusion. "A good God would not do that to the people he has made and says he loves." Those were some of the speaker’s objections to Christian and theistic beliefs, which was what originally started him on a path of doubt that grew until it blossomed into his personal choice to disbelieve its 'perceived' truth. 

Doubt is a tool used against our souls. Yet there is this; to turn away from belief in God could feel like freedom when you do not agree with the premise of belief any longer. I contend, it could also feel like a gargantuan loss. Stars would lose their brilliance. The reason for living with its form of right and wrong that promotes common decency and fair treatment of others, morality and goodness, would be absent, gone. Being close to God as his beloved child, would be nonexistent.  The loss and re-positioning of one's belief system would act as a change agent in one's life.

For me, God means too much and has been too real for me to consider him to be a misconception or an untruth.  I sense his presence and know his ministering spirit. I know joy in a greater capacity. His truth feeds my soul. Jesus is my Way, my Truth, and my Life. Easy believism is not Christianity, for to follow Christ there comes a surrendering of self to him as he becomes your Lord and Savior, and it changes you. I cannot look at something beautiful without thinking of the God who made it. I wish every could be open to the possibility of there being a God. It would change the world.

On a Side Note

Little parts of this story I have identified with in my own life, that of changing course mid-stream, although not in regard to loss of faith. In my faith journey I came to a place of stepping out in a new direction with my faith's practice when my beliefs about God had broadened, and I saw his work in people's lives in contrast to my former, more scripted, beliefs. I knew I must follow the way of the cross, the way I believe Christ lived his life and ministered to the spiritually hungry. 

My focus altered. I firmly held to the same tenants of the faith but the outworking of them in my life was became different. I had been transformed. I no longer felt confined by the structures of how others thought I had to live my faith, but I did feel alone. Many rarely look at the big picture of how the puzzle fits together. I’ve thought about the atheist's comments all day. I understand his argument, we could all go down that trail. Doubts are to be contended and reckoned with accordingly. Be aware of this side to spirituality.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Beauty Lifts the Soul


Dear friend,

What if you could give yourself an amazing gift, what would it be?

If I had given myself something for Christmas, the gift better than any other would have been to use my abilities to create something that would help make our world a saner place--to help its people want to be kinder and nobler in spirit. Great writing can do that when it moves people to act on behalf of others.

Part of me wants to write a story that will move hearts, that will move lives, that will change the way we perceive and then do. I want to reach the masses, not just one group within the masses. But I also realize one has to have something to give in order for there to be something of value others can receive.

There are taboo subjects that one could write about and be the worse off for it. Courage says it's worth the cost. One can be imprisoned for their beliefs and mistreated for their affiliations. Some countries limit the conversation. Wouldn't it be wonderful to write a novel that could say the message without censor and is read throughout the world?

A redemptive message is found in almost every novel. Why is that? I think it is because we all need some redeeming, and we want to see the good guy win, we want to see the problem end up being solved, and we want to see people rise above the circumstances. Real life is that way. Did you have any problems in 2017? All of us are in our own personal redemptive story.

Beauty lifts the soul. There are many ways to create expressions that speak to soul-need. Humans have great needs. Some of these needs are crushing us, smothering us, pushing us down. Hope says all is not hopeless for if hope is gone, you have little left. What gives hope? A song, a phrase, a picture, verse, food, bouquet, photo, painting, scent, jewel, touch and so forth are tangibles that speak hope to us.

Depression pulls us inward and stomps on hope. Melancholy moods are common during the holidays and winter days. They hit me too, like when I was shopping in K-Mart. I was thinking about my family and how I wasn't able to be with them for Christmas.  But we don't want to stay there. We have to do something about it. Go for a walk. Meet with a friend. Visit a loved one. Read an inspirational story. Pray to God.

Hope lifts us up. The bright side is the opposite of the dark side. I wish I could say or do something that would carry the multitudes to the brighter side of life. Wouldn't that be grand? Think of the good that could be done if we did all for love's sake? I wish you much love today, and tomorrow, and on throughout the new year.

God's best,
Norma