Monday, June 13, 2016

Chapter Twenty

This was a tough weekend with the mass shooting in Orlando.


Was it a hate crime? Was it terrorist influenced? Was it due to homophobia? How many times during the course of yesterday's news updates and interviews did we hear, "We are America and we are better than that!" What we are is United States citizens and that is what binds us together. 

Indeed, U.S.A. is not America!


America is the name of a whole continent. United States of America means that the United States belongs to America and NOT that America belongs to the United States. So when you refer to yourself and an American, remember that the citizens of these countries are also Americans.




A List of the Deadliest Mass Shootings in U.S. History

1. Pulse Orlando nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (June 12, 2016)

Police say 29-year-old Omar Mateen opened fire at the club that calls itself the city's hottest gay bar. He took hostages, and after a three-hour standoff, police moved in. The gunman was killed, but not before perpetrating the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

At least 49 people were killed, and more than 50 were wounded and taken to area hospitals. Mateen was killed during a firefight with police.

2. Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va. (April 16, 2007)

Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old English major from Centerville, Va., entered the campus of Virginia Tech and opened fire.

Thirty-two people were killed, and 17 others were injured. Cho also killed himself.

3. Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 14, 2012)

Adam Lanza went into Sandy Hook Elementary and killed 26 people — mostly children — before killing himself. He also killed his mother, Nancy Lanza.

4. Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas (Oct. 16, 1991)

In 1991, 35-year-old George Hennard walked into a cafeteria and opened fire with a handgun. He loaded and emptied his gun several times, leaving 23 people dead. Then he killed himself.

5. McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif. (July 18, 1984)

James Oliver Huberty, a 41-year-old unemployed security guard, opened fire on a McDonald's in San Ysidro using a shotgun and a pistol.

He killed 21 people and wounded 19. He was killed by police.

6. University of Texas Tower in Austin, Texas (Aug. 1, 1966)

Charles Whitman, a 25-year-old student who had served with the Marines, murdered his mother and his wife before climbing the University of Texas Tower with six firearms. He began firing at pedestrians below.

He killed 14 people and wounded 31 from the tower. He was killed by police.

7. Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. (April 20, 1999)

Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, students at Columbine High School, entered the school with four guns and pipe bombs.

They killed 13 people and wounded 24, before killing themselves.

8. Edmond Post Office in Edmond, Okla. (Aug. 20, 1986)

Patrick Henry Sherrill shot and killed 14 co-workers before taking his own life

Tragedy and mass murder are not new to our nation. In fact, our nation has supported and at time glorified mass killings. 

9. Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, Calif. (Dec. 2, 2015)

Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, opened fire inside the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino.

They killed 14 people, and they were killed during a shootout with police.

10. American Civic Association, Binghamton, N.Y. (April 3, 2009)

Jiverly Wong, a 42-year-old Vietnamese immigrant, opened fire on an immigration center in Binghamton, N.Y.

Wong killed 13 people and wounded four others before killing himself.

11. Fort Hood in Texas (Nov. 5, 2009)

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, an Army psychiatrist, opened fire using two handguns at the U.S. Army post in Texas.

He killed 13 people and wounded 30. Hasan was sentenced to death in 2013.

12. Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (Sept. 16, 2013)

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy reservist, opened fire at the Navy Yard. He killed 12 people before police killed him.

(Tamara's Note:) I'm not sure why, but the Emanuel AME church shooting with nine persons killed was left off this list, sad to say. It was my belief that a shooting with four or more victims is considered a mass shooting.

As I consider all the violence cited above, they all seem to be instances of hate crimes, don't you think?

The Two-Way

the two-way


These accounts are from our most recent history. May we not forget older accounts of sanctioned murder and massacre in the U.S.  Perhaps it is the quarter of my Native American blood that requires I recall government sanctioned genocide.

We, as a nation have come a long way… and yet still have much work to do.
On the morning of December 29, 1890, the Sioux chief Big Foot and some 350 of his followers camped on the banks of Wounded Knee creek. Surrounding their camp was a force of U.S. troops charged with the responsibility of arresting Big Foot and disarming his warriors. The scene was tense. Trouble had been brewing for months.
For the entirety of his 27 years, Black Elk’s somber eyes had watched as the way of life for his fellow Lakota Sioux withered on the Great Plains. The medicine man had witnessed a generation of broken treaties and shattered dreams. He had watched as the white men “came in like a river” after gold was discovered in the Dakota Territory’s Black Hills in 1874, and he had been there two years later when Custer and his men were annihilated at Little Big Horn. He had seen the Lakota’s traditional hunting grounds evaporate as white men decimated the native buffalo population. The Lakota, who once roamed as free as the bison on the Great Plains, were now mostly confined to government reservations.

Life for the Sioux had become as bleak as the weather that gripped the snow-dusted prairies of South Dakota in the winter of 1890. A glimmer of hope, however, had begun to arise with the new Ghost Dance spiritual movement, which preached that Native Americans had been confined to reservations because they had angered the gods by abandoning their traditional customs. Leaders promised that the buffalo would return, relatives would be resurrected and the white man would be cast away if the Native Americans performed a ritual “ghost dance.”
As the movement began to spread, white settlers grew increasingly alarmed and feared it as a prelude to an armed uprising. “Indians are dancing in the snow and are wild and crazy,” telegrammed a frightened government agent stationed on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation to the commissioner of Indian affairs on November 15, 1890. “We need protection and we need it now.” General Nelson Miles arrived on the prairie with 5,000 troops as part of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s old command, and ordered the arrest of several Sioux leaders.
When on December 15, 1890, Indian police tried to arrest Chief Sitting Bull, who was mistakenly believed to have been joining the Ghost Dancers, the noted Sioux leader was killed in the melee. On December 28, the cavalry caught up with Chief Big Foot, who was leading a band of upwards of 350 people to join Chief Red Cloud, near the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, which winds through the prairies and badlands of southwest South Dakota. The American forces arrested Big Foot—too ill with pneumonia to sit up, let alone walk—and positioned their Hotchkiss guns on a rise overlooking the Lakota camp.
As a bugle blared the following morning—December 29—American soldiers mounted their horses and surrounded the Native American camp. A medicine man who started to perform the ghost dance cried out, “Do not fear but let your hearts be strong. Many soldiers are about us and have many bullets, but I am assured their bullets cannot penetrate us.” He implored the heavens to scatter the soldiers like the dust he threw into the air.
The cavalry, however, went teepee to teepee seizing axes, rifles and other weapons. As the soldiers attempted to confiscate a weapon they spotted under the blanket of a deaf man who could not hear their orders, a gunshot suddenly rang out. It was not clear which side shot first, but within seconds the American soldiers launched a hail of bullets from rifles, revolvers and rapid-fire Hotchkiss guns into the teepees. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Lakota offered meek resistance.
Big Foot was shot where he lay on the ground. Boys who only moments before were playing leapfrog were mowed down. In just a matter of minutes, at least 150 Sioux (some historians put the number at twice as high) were killed along with 25 American soldiers. Nearly half the victims were women and children.
The dead were carried to the nearby Episcopal Church and laid in two rows underneath festive wreaths and other Christmas decorations. Days later a burial party arrived, dug a pit and dumped in the frozen bodies. For decades, survivors of the massacre lobbied in vain for compensation, while the U.S. Army awarded 20 Medals of Honor to members of the Seventh Cavalry for their roles in the bloodbath.
When Black Elk closed his wizened eyes in 1931, he could still envision the horror. “When I look back now from this high hill of my old age,” he told writer John G. Neihardt for his 1932 book “Black Elk Speaks,” “I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people’s dream died there.”
It was not the last time blood flowed next to Wounded Knee Creek. In February 1973 activists with the American Indian Movement seized and occupied the site for 71 days to protest the U.S. government’s mistreatment of Native Americans. The standoff resulted in the deaths of two Native Americans.
Source: http://www.history.com/news/remembering-the-wounded-knee-massacre 

I have fears...

  • fears for our nation
  • fears for our children
  • fears for our grandchildren and all the future generations


If we look at our society through the lens of love, will it help us to become more tolerant of "others"? You know them, don't you? 

  • those who don't go to the same church as we do...
  • those who hold different ideologies and beliefs than we do...
  • those who may not have entered our country legally...
  • those who speak a different language than we do...
  • those who have different skin coloring than us...
  • those who are of the LGBT community...

Or do we prefer to be the Pharisee who stands in the courtyard crying out, "O God, Thank You that I am not like that sinner over there..." (my paraphrase of Luke 18:9-14).

And so I pray:
God, God... fill me with your Holy Spirit that I may see the face of Christ in each person I come into contact with. Then again I pray that each person I come into contact with may see the face of Christ reflected back to them.

Pour me out and fill me with your Spirit. May I seek to right injustice as I open my eyes and become sensitive to it. May I seek to be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Even so, Amen.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Chapter Nineteen

Husband and I were asked to participate in a series of monologues for our church Good Friday service. We experienced the Passion story through Dr. Marcia McFee’s dramatic script, Poured Out for You. The service was rich with reflective imagery and music. It started with “oil” and the anointing of Christ’s feet, followed by “water” and the symbolic washing of hands, next was “wine” into which Christ dipped the bread for Judas, then “blood” as witnessed by the Roman soldier, Mary’s “tears” were next followed by “light” as one candle was extinguished and another picked up and we were quietly ushered out.

Husband did the monologue of Judas. My monologue was Mary, the mother of Christ, and the words of the monologue follow:

My son.  From the moment the angel said to me, “you will bear a son” my life was no longer my own.  And yet it was every bit mine.  Moments treasured, remembered in my heart alone.  Every moment he grew within me.  Every day of his youth.  Every movement of his ministry from that day at Cana to this very minute.  At times the pain threatened to outweigh the wonder of this unimaginable life God had given me. 

And especially now.  Like the blue cloth that you picked up on your way in, the color of Mary, know that in this moment I am not just the mother of Jesus shedding tears for my son.  I am the tears of any mother who has seen their child die before them.  I am the tears of every mother who has lost children in political warfare and oppression.  I am the tears of all loved ones who cannot save their loved ones as they starve, are ravaged by illness or injury, are swept away by tsunami or flood or earthquake or hurricane, or lose their lives to addiction, are consumed by depression or suffer violent ends.  And I am the tears of all loved ones who do not know the fate of the missing ones…  I am the tears.

Practice as I did, I could not make it through the monologue without tears of my own. Perhaps an explanation is in order.

Two years ago during Holy Week, our son was released from prison. We left Maundy Thursday service early to meet him at the bus station.

Last year, I missed all of Holy Week due to having the lung cancer surgery on April 2nd, which was Maundy Thursday. I was released from the hospital on Easter Sunday. The upside to this is that on Wednesday, as I was still working at the church office, the pastor asked that I meet with him 15 minutes prior to my departure. When I arrived at his office, he stood and said, “Let’s go to the sanctuary.” When we arrived I saw my co-workers and the two associate pastors! I was more than surprised. They were having an “anointing” service for my health, followed by prayer. I was humbled by this act, so very humbled. My eyes still well up with tears as I recall this event.

That brings us to now. Yes, now. We recently became aware our son, who hasn’t seen or visited with us for a year is involved in illicit activities, which may again land him in prison. With this recent knowledge, reading the above monologue became all the more personal for me. It spoke to my heart and soul. It also spoke to many others of our congregation as I saw their tears, too.

A pictorial statement posted on Facebook simply said, “Holy Saturday: Rest well, indeed. For tomorrow there is work to be done and a grave to be conquered.” ~Author Unknown

With the forty days of Lent that lead us to the cross and the victory of the tomb, Friday and Saturday do indeed seem as bleak as the dark night of the soul. Yet to those of us who are believers, Sunday comes with a resounding breaking of the sun and an empty tomb! Alleluia!

May you be blessed.


Tamara

Friday, January 1, 2016

Chapter Eighteen

My last devotional of the year was entitled Wistful Words. It was all about trust. Trust, at least for me, is hard to come by... worldly or Godly. It is as if I've only ever been able to rely on or trust "me" - and when I fail myself, it's been ever so difficult.

Yes...trust and trust issues. This past year with health issues... cancer and chemo, has taught me a bit about trusting God - and my NOT being in control. Then with Dennis' health issues.

A dear friend brought me to tears as she was sharing with our accountability group about her newest tattoo. I asked if it was in a place where we could see it. She removed her shoe and there is was in all its glory - "make it count" on the inside of her left foot. I cried. I cried because I created a "private" FaceBook Page to share with all my prayer warriors was was happening. It was a great way to let a number of persons know at one time what was happening and to provide prayer requests. It was named "Make it Count, Dear Lord".

It is my custom to have a time of meditation and journaling, then to read at least one piece of poetry daily. After that, it is time to make the bed and straighten the bathroom and towels. Little rituals that help me to set the tone for the coming day.

At the day’s end, I try to be sure the dishes are washed, the sink empty and everything is “in its place”.

That doesn’t always happen, but it is a ritual I try to keep.

My poetry comes daily from the Poetry Foundation and then from Robert Okaji at O at the Edges. His offering for New Year’s was a very rich piece entitled Year’s End. Feel free to locate his blog at WordPress. I tried to attach the link, but it didn't seem to work.  Alas!

Today I received the daily offering from the Poetry Foundation and it, too was a wonderful offering by Naomi Shihab Nye. I offer it here for your review.

Burning the Old Year

BY NAOMI SHIHAB NYE

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn't,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn't do   
crackle after the blazing dies.

As most of you are aware, 2015 was a challenging year for our family. We welcome with open arms 2016 and yet are fully cognizant that we have no control over how the year will unfold. It is our prayer that we are malleable and will be able to bend with the winds that will surely rage through 2016.

Our individual health crisis this past year seemed to draw the two of us closer together. Too often a family crisis can destroy the union, but ours was strengthened. I only know that it is a God given grace that caused that – and the myriad of prayers that were being offered on our behalf.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it, but I do have another blog over at WordPress.  I call it Confessions of a Prison Librarian. I generally try to promote inmate poetry, but sometimes change course and promote other poetry or my thoughts about various prison issues.

My best wishes to all of you for the New Year! I wish you health, safety and warmth.

Tamara

2 Corinthians 4:16   The VoiceSo we have no reason to despair. Despite the fact that our outer humanity is falling apart and decaying, our inner humanity is breathing in new life everyday.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chapter Seventeen

Life is wildly unpredictable. We never know what the twists and turns are ahead of us on life’s highway. We cannot control that. What we can control is the manner in how we react to it. Even when we find ourselves in a closet with tears streaming down our face, we can cling to grace and say through the tears, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him;” (Job 13:15).

This year has been full of challenges for my husband and me. We are both looking forward to 2016 and what we pray will be healthier days.

I’ve been reading “The Way of St. Francis” by Murray Bodo. At the end of chapter six he proclaims the following:

“Whatever God deigns to give us is pure gift and not something we earn or deserve by becoming that ‘perfect’ person we think we should be. We are who we are, and any perfection, or completion, in us is the work of God responding freely to our honest prayer that God change in us what we previously thought we could only change ourselves.”

Amen to that! I always felt I could not minister because I was so… imperfect, so flawed, so unworthy. As true at this is, Bodo goes on to explain:

“Who we become in God is then God’s work and not our own success in conforming to some ideal. The self we become in true prayer is seldom the self we envisioned, but it is a new and marvelous self that God fashions out of the gradual redeeming of the false self we now acknowledge as the work of our own misguided idealism. We then know God in what God has done in us to enable us to discover our true face. And in that face only do we see the reflection of God as God really is.”

Have you every felt the heat in your life when the fire of God is attempting to purge something from you? I have. It hasn’t been pleasant either. Comparatively, it is similar to the Bureau of Land Management setting a Controlled Burn however, in an instance like this it is God who is in control.

I recall an email that was being circulated years ago that went like this:

Some time ago, a few ladies met in a certain city to read the scriptures and make them the subject of conversation. While reading the third chapter of Malachi they came upon a remarkable expression in the third verse, "And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

One lady's opinion was that it was intended to convey the view of the sanctifying influence of the grace of Christ. Then she proposed to visit a silversmith and report to them what he said on the subject. She went accordingly and without telling the object of her errand, begged to know the process of refining silver, which he fully described to her.

"But Sir," she said, "do you sit while the work of refining is going on?" "Oh, yes madam, "replied the silversmith, "I must sit with my eye steadily fixed on the furnace, for if the time necessary for refining be exceeded in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured."

The lady at once saw the beauty and comfort of the expression, "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver."

Christ sees it needful to put His children into a furnace. His eye is steadily intent on the work of purifying, and His wisdom and love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; "the very hairs of your head are all numbered."

As the lady was leaving the shop, the silversmith called her back and said he had still further to mention that he only knows when the process of purifying is complete and that is by seeing his own image reflected in the silver.   
~ Author Unknown

Isn’t this a beautiful example? When Christ shall see His own image in His people, His work of purifying will be accomplished.

…and so I pray

Abba, Father - thank You for loving me enough to purge the dross of my life. May I reflect your image to those with whom I come into contact with. In Jesus’ name ~Amen!

When, my friends have you felt the fires of affliction in your life?

Like me, do you argue with God about it or are you more compliant and allow the dross to be purged from your life?


…until next time

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Chapter Sixteen

November is Lung Cancer Awareness month. It is represented by a White Ribbon. I’ve plastered my Facebook page with said “awareness” art. 

Gratitude has been a reoccurring theme since the lung cancer diagnosis. Gratitude that stems from the cancer being found early; gratitude that 13 lymph nodes had no evidence of disease; gratitude that I only had to endure four chemotherapy treatments; gratitude that Husband was willing, able and such a good caregiver. 

Never once did Husband complain or make me feel dreadful that he had to care for me, the house or having become my driver to and from medical appointments. For awhile there, it was like “Driving Miss Daisy”.

I do have a few upcoming medical appointments this month, and I am happy to declare that I am perfectly capable of driving myself to and from them. It’s been three months since the last chemo treatment and I will be having PET scans and seeing the oncologist every three months until I hear otherwise. I did meet with the surgeon in October and he agreed that I should only have to meet with the oncologist now. Again, I am grateful.

For almost six weeks now, Husband has been having an issue with his right knee. He's using a cane to walk and cannot drive. It’s been painful and swollen. He’s been to the ER twice and his primary care Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner (CRNP) once for this. During the last ER visit they prescribed a highly addictive pain reliever. He only took it for a couple of days before he began having problems. The medication nearly shut down his kidneys. He quit taking the medication and that issue cleared right up. After seeing his primary care CRNP, he is now scheduled for an MRI.

The worst part of this is that he cannot remember a distinct time he hurt or twisted his knee. I trust the MRI will show an underlying cause and that the issue is treatable. They also have him scheduled to begin physical therapy in December.

This is in addition to an already existing medical condition that he is being treated for. In fact, he will be having a biopsy this coming Friday. I must chuckle here as he forgets the name of the procedure (biopsy) so he calls it an autopsy! I remind him he is not dead yet!

I really liked his CRNP. She is a no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is professional. Since all Husband’s care is at the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Health Care System, I’m thinking she was probably a military nurse. Bless her heart.

I know there is a lot of controversy surrounding the VA Health Care at large, but we have never been disappointed with his care there. As a matter of fact, our facility is rated number 2 in the nation. Again, gratitude!

If everything turns out well with his biopsy, then he is scheduled for a procedure on the 20th of this month.

And so it goes… I am now his caregiver. I will admit to times of feeling a bit inconvenienced. To counter that, I pray every single night that I will have the grace to serve Husband and to not complain. Frankly, he set a very high standard for me. I am determined to give him the same quality of care he gave me and to do so with the heart of Christ.

I am beginning to think that I should again change names of my blog… “Love in the Time of Chemo” since I am no longer receiving chemo. However, with that being said, I paid for the domain for a year. I have a while to make a determination.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12


Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart (emphasis is mine).

When I read this verse, I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It describes “a friend” and how if they lay down together they keep warm. It goes on to describe a cord of three strands. I’m no scholar, but I believe this to be the Holy Spirit, especially as it relates to marriage.

There are many and various stages of marriage. The passion of being newly wed; the struggles of employment, living expenses and children; then finally when it all settles down and the empty nest arrives. Yes. We are friends. We have been friends since the inception of our relationship, but like all friendships it changes through the years. The intimacy is much sweeter now. It is much deeper, too. Like friendship, there are different facets of intimacy. 

Our marriage is not perfect, except to say it is perfectly flawed. That is one of the tests of marriage. Will we work through the difficulties or will we call it quits? It’s been said that “aging ain’t for sissies.” My thought is that marriage isn’t for sissies, either. But then that draws me back to the scripture verse I quoted - A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. Come, Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts. Amen.

UPDATE:

Husband's biopsy did not happen. According to the urologist, his PSA count is elevated due to medication he is taking, so it is actually only half of the number. He is also being treated for a UTI. So... he is scheduled for an MRI on his knee on the 24th and then to meet with the urologist on the 25th. 

Then, we will celebrate and honor Thanksgiving! What are you thankful for? 


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Chapter Fifteen

Our married life has been like a Charles Dickens novel. The opening paragraph of Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities begins:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

The two cities referred to are London and Paris during the turmoil of the French Revolution. There have been periods of turmoil in our marriage. Indeed, the best of times and the worst of times, belief and unbelief, Light and Darkness, hope and despair, seasons of plenty and the lean seasons.

Times as described above are common to everyone and anyone in a relationship. The question is, how do you deal with the changing times? How do you deal with different personalities and traits? How do you determine to stick it out “for better or for worse” portion of the vows? How do you “stay” when our society so easily allows us to become disillusioned, unsatisfied and then grants us a judicial writ for dissolution of marriage?

I am not saying that divorce is the unforgivable sin. Indeed not. Sometimes when something is broken it is time to “discard” it. By all means, if you are in an abusive relationship – get out. Get out now. This is my second marriage. The first one lasted four and half years. This one has managed to survive thirty-six years. How did that happen? Especially when evaluating life, we are basically selfish human beings who prefer to have it “our” way. Yes...the Burger King mentality.

We have our moments! We discuss (that’s code for debate… argue…) issues. Sometimes that ends with me establishing the right to “remain silent.” Yes, the silent treatment and eyes that can roll expressively. Fortunately, we don’t become violent but we do have great discussions! We don’t always agree on issues. In fact when it comes to politics we generally cancel each other’s vote out! We also agree to disagree agreeably.

What we do have is respect for each other and a strong abiding faith in Jesus Christ. But that hasn’t always been so.

This life, not unlike your life, has not been a ‘happily ever after’ event. It has been one of blood, sweat and tears. Yes, tears, lots of tears.

Tears are magnificent. They have a baptismal quality.

Tears can miraculously transform into the oil of joy, and wash away the ashes of mourning. 

Words that comfort me are these from Psalm 56:8, via the Message - 
"You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book."

I have cried. He has cried.

We have cried individually. We have cried corporately.

We have cried in anger. We have cried in love.

We have cried through prayer.

We have cried in pain and sickness.

We have cried through the pain of loved ones making catastrophic choices.

What we have determined is this: Life is tough.

I want the light to overcome the darkness and some days are very dark.

We have determined that love is a choice.

When I open my eyes from sleep, I roll over and look at him sleeping. I make an active decision to love him this day. And only for this day. Tomorrow, I will do this again. And the next day, and the one after that, too.

We don’t always agree. Our lives combine and run over each other and we have debates that spill over at our dinner table. We both believe that even with God’s Word as the final authority, our individual thoughts and beliefs are wholly sanctified, even if not holy.

I believe in Eucharist Theology.

I believe like the Eucharist, our hearts, like the bread are made to be broken and yet loved in all that brokenness.

We should live our lives as the spilled wine, allowing ourselves and our lives to overflow, spill out and come into contact with those who desperately are thirsting.

I feel the pull, an actual pull to become involved in community justice issues. To pour the oil, to bind up the wounds. To quell the brokenness of community, of our community.

Yes… brokenness… and still I am so filled with broken hallelujahs.

Life can be gritty. Life can be dirty. So can love. And love is a choice. It is a tangible act of volition. It has been said that “love covers a multitude of sin’ but as I see it, grace covers the many pitfalls of love.

Yes, grace. That unmerited favor we don’t deserve but is granted. In my faith tradition, grace is threefold – not unlike the Godhead.

My health is good. I am currently cancer free. I will be having PET scans and appointments with my oncologist every three months for a while. I did have a questionable sleep study so another has been approved by my insurance carrier and I will have that in December. My daughter and SIL will be coming to visit then, too. I am very excited about that!

I have a new great grandson! He is beautiful and perfect. My arms ache to hold him. He is my first great grandchild. I am so proud of his Momma, my granddaughter. She did everything right during her pregnancy. My daughter says that he (her grand, my great grand) is “an old soul” who quietly observes his environment. Welcome into the world, sweet baby boy, welcome into the world.

I love how life continues on even though we have cause for concern about the state of current events in our world. It provides a glimpse of hope for the future.

Until the next post, I remain,


Tamara

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Chapter Fourteen

During the course of my Christian walk, God has been faithful to introduce women into my life. These women have served as role models and persons whose lives I would hope to emulate.

One such woman was a “back door” neighbor, advanced in years and she lived behind us in our small Home Town Community in Ohio. Oh, we didn’t attend the same church, but we found our common thread in our faith. I would be outside working in the garden and here she would come bearing gifts of vegetables or flowers from her own garden along with pearls of wisdom and home-spun humor.

Her husband had owned the “mom & pop” hardware store in the community until his retirement. As the years progressed, so did his Alzheimer’s. He often wandered off from home and “lost his way”. She would notify the police department and being it was a small community, they would locate him and bring him home. Truly, it was like reading the Nicholas Sparks novel, “The Notebook.”

Even when he no longer recognized her, she faithfully administered the vows of their marriage; in sickness or in health. Her love and dedication to this man ministered to my heart in a way that only could be done through her living witness.

One day while working in the yard, here comes my neighbor. I meet her at the half way point. After our perfunctory greetings, she explained that their home has been sold and in three weeks’ time there would be an auction of their household items. I’m sure the shocked expression on my face spoke volumes as she continued on. They were moving into a residential care facility where her husband could get the care he needed as she could no longer do this alone. We hugged and cried, and cried together.

Three weeks later I registered for the auction at their home. I cried through most of it. When a box of items was being auctioned off together, I bid on it. I had to have something of hers, other than the memories. It turned out to be some Bible study items in which she had hand written notes.

All this happened over 30-years ago now. I no longer have the items from all the moving that has transpired since that time, yet I retain the memories in my heart and mind.

More recently, I was honored to observe another woman from our church. She was the primary caregiver to her husband. He was stricken with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. This dear woman cared for the love of her life through the horrible stages of the disease. She eventually had to feed him, learn to lift and move him into his wheelchair, and seek to patiently try to understand him when his speech declined to the point where no one else could make out what he was saying. She was his advocate at medical appointments. She became his voice as well as his transportation.

Then I had the opportunity to witness yet another caregiver. That would be my husband. During this chapter of medical appointments, testing, surgery, and chemotherapy in our lives, he has driven me to medical appointments, sat with me through numerous doctor visits. He has asked questions I could not think of as an ever present advocate. At home he took care of the everyday household chores of cleaning, laundry and meal preparation when I was too tired to even try. He never, never said a disparaging thing or complained about his lot. What I remember most is the day after surgery he held my hand and through tears said, “It’s not supposed to be like this. I was supposed to die first. You were not supposed to get sick like this.” To which I replied, “It’s not over yet!”

I have a very good prognosis. The cancer was stage 1B, and there was NO cancer in any of the 13-lymph nodes that were examined. As a preemptive strike, it was recommended and I agreed to four chemotherapy treatments. More recent, I had a colonoscopy and a polyp was removed. It was pre-cancerous and had the same family of cells as the lung cancer. It could have developed into colon cancer. I am now on the every three year plan for colonoscopies. The prep is the worst part of this process. I am confident I can do this without too much whining.

As I look at all that has transpired since January, I realize even more how blessed I am. I prayed throughout this excursion that God would use it for His glory and for His good – no matter what the outcome.

A quote I have come to love and use a lot is from Sara Miles. Simply stated it reads “prayer is one of the deepest forms of relationship with God…and through relationship there can be healing in the absence of cure.” What this translates to me is that cure is a medical term and healing is a spiritual term. They are two separate actions that can co-exist…or not.

I have taken a Spiritual Gifts survey. Actually, I’ve taken it several times hoping my gift was something else other than what the survey shows. Isn’t that rich? Arguing with God that, “no, I don’t think that is my gift… surely it must be something else!” Yes, of course… one body many parts.

Romans 12:3-8 (NIV) reads:
“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

Furthermore, 1 Corinthians 12:4-31 (NIV) reads:
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. 
Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. 
But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.”

So? What did the Spiritual Types survey indicate was my gift? That of being a prophet. As I understand it, being a prophet by today’s standard means to rightly divide the Word of God. Why does it disturb me? I am afraid of being a poor witness, a poor ambassador of Christ. What if I offend someone and they totally turn from away from Christianity because of me? Ahhh, the old “shoulda, coulda, woulda” paralysis.

I am more than sure I am to be considering what my gift is AND more importantly to act upon it only because it was pointed out in a devotional I was reading. The article said to ask someone whose opinion you respected. So I asked a dear Sister in Christ what she might think my "God given gift" may be? She agreed to having this discussion and we will be pursuing this together! Then this past Sunday, our Pastor's sermon was about the very same subject! Yes, God has my attention. 

Indeed, it is not enough to “know” what the gift is, but the key to the gift is action. And what might that entail? The saga continues…

Yours, because we’re His,


Tamara