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Archive for the ‘comfort’ Category

 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8).”

It’s hard sleeping this time of year. I live in a Nordic country which is currently experiencing “white nights”.

One former colleague posted the sunrise and sunset times in her hometown above the Arctic Circle on Facebook yesterday. There was about 45 minutes in between these events.

In my location farther south it isn’t as bright,but it’s close. The sun officially sets between 22:00 and 23:00 and rises again about 3:30 am. In between is twilight and perhaps about 45 minuted of darkness.

It’s hard enough to sleep in this kind of environment unless you have good curtains or eyepatches. But it’s even worse when your heart is troubled.

I will be unemployed in about three weeks and I am looking for work. Having to write and talk about myself so much to strangers, especially professional ones, is nerve wracking.

Although I have a lot of strengths on a professional level, I haven’t been perfect. In fact, my recent history includes a failed work experience.

 There are all kinds of details I will leave out here. Also, I do not intend to use this space to argue my case or assign blame. Let’s just say that things did not end well.

This makes it difficult when I go to apply for similar jobs as the one I had. When they ask to speak to my supervisor at this place of employment, I inwardly cringe.

I have no choice but to give them a name. I then know that my prospects with the employer I am currently talking with aren’t good.

 So, there’s a lot of stress right now. I really don’t care what time it is because I just sleep when I feel like it. (As an educator my schedule is pretty flexible in the summer.)

It’s easy in my situation to beat myself up over this whole thing.  People have expectations and sometimes you don’t meet them.

Author and pastor Bill Merritt tells of his own experience where he almost lost his job. He notes that talent isn’t enough anymore.

Merritt says that people want you to actually be able  to relate to them. They want you to ask questions and be interested. They want you to be nice.

“Imagine that!”, he writes.

“Nice” was not always my forte on the job I left badly. I think I did an excellent job there, but I could have handled relationships better. As a result there is an irreparable rupture between me and this company.

My apology was not accepted. Subsequent correspondence to this organization has gone unanswered. 

I’ve improved some since then. However, as noted above joblessness is hovering and I don’t have much going on, and this failure hangs around and occasionally surfaces. 

It is hard to recover from personal failure. This is true in the workplace and at home both.

When you fail people don’t trust you. They get mad at you.  Not only that, you get mad at them, especially if you feel as if your treatment is unjust.

You lose fellowship and friendship. What to do?

Well, as a Christian I know that it’s not a good idea to quit on God.  If I stick with Him, He will stick with me. 

However, if I abandon God, He will abandon me. It’s my choice (II Chronicles 15:2).

I noted above that when there is a relational fracture in the workplace that the parties get mad. I notice that God tends to get mad when people don’t treat Him with respect, too.

The Psalmist tells leaders that they had better submit to Jesus, or else!  Destruction is on the way when our Lord is ignored, rejected or rebelled against (Psalm 2:10-12).

The Psalmist says that God is an honest judge. He gets angry at the wicked every day and takes action against them (Psalm 7:11-13).

So, what’s my part?  Well the Psalmist tells ME if I want to sleep at night that I should:

-submit to Jesus myself (Psalm 2:12b);

-control my 0wn anger and trust God (Psalm 4:4,5);

-pray for God’s active protection and action against my enemies (Psalm 3:1-4,7);

-ask God to take care of my reputation (Psalm 4:2,3);

-ask God to rescúe me from the mess in my heart and out there in the world (Psalm 6:1-10).

This last point is especially  profound. Until last night I thought of God as someone who would come in like the calvary to perform his rescue. I didn’t see Him as someone who stuck around the garbage dump I’ve created in my heart and life.

However, it occurred to me yesterday evening that Jesus is down there with me in the junkyard. He is there waiting patiently for me to acknowledge Him while I sit in the stench.

This thought reminded me of an old booklet from my youth. Robert Munger wrote a short story called My Heart Christ’s Home which was popular at the time.

In this piece Jesus is invited into a man’s home. Room by room he begins to set the man’s house in order.

Eventually, the man realizes he can’t keep his house clean and asks Jesus to do it. However, Jesus tells the man that He has no authority there: He is just a guest.

The man turns the deed of the house over to Jesus. From then on, the man is just the servant in the house and Jesus is master.

I learned last night that Jesus is not content to stay on the outskirts of our lives. I had forgotten this and didn’t think He wanted to be down there in the muck with me, but He does.

Yet, the Psalmist says He does. He wrote,”For you look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God”. (Psalm 7:9)

When we give over ownership to Jesus, we can sleep soundly. David found this out. He wrote:

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side (Psalm 3:5,6)

When Jesus enters the trash heap, it is not His intention to let it stay messy. He intends to clean it up, if I let Him.

If I do, I think I will sleep better despite the white nights. I will have the assurance and peace that He is there to take care of my messy heart and the rest of my trashy life out there.

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“When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it;  the light of my face was precious to them (Job 29:24).”

I think six months of winter is a little much, even for the Finns. Finally, today I have seen the possibility that it might be over.

As I walked by the largest lake in the country around noon, I could see pools of water developing. They were intermingled with the ever -weakening ice and the last vestiges of the white snow that has dominated the landscape here for months.

I groaned inwardly as I walked through the harbor in my town.  Having any winter the last week of April made me long for something different.

I also sighed inside because the icy lake, though beginning to turn liquid again, reminded me of my own soul. After a lifetime I have grown tired of the winter in my being and at last have begun to see my frozen spirit begin to melt.

These feelings come on a day that it seems major issues in my life all confronted me at once. This tends to happen when a computer is used. Too much communication, or perhaps not enough real life.

Recently a pastor told me that I was just “going through a season in my life”. When it was obvious to him that I was getting ready to object, that nothing was going to change, he added,”Oh, this doesn’t mean necesarrily that your circumstances will change, but…”.

I don’t remember the rest. I probably can’t recall because I was stuck on the unsettling truth of his first clause just sinking in.

Today I am fed up with myself. Not only that, I am disillusioned with the world I live in every day, including the features of modern-day Christianity.

I guess I’m not alone in that. Andrew Sullivan just wrote a piece in Newsweek advising Christians to follow Jesus and not the church.

No news there. The letters to the editor in the following edition both praised him and criticized him for his article.

I guess I am feeling a bit singled out today though, perhaps by Jesus Himself. I ask,”What I want to know, Lord, is why I have to keep paying the price for my sinfulness and other believers I know seem to be getting a pass?”

I know for a fact that they struggle with the same stuff I do: temper, sexual temptation, greed, envy, self indulgence…the list could go on and have made the same mistakes as a result of failing in these areas. Yet, these folks seem to be carrying on, their smiling Facebook images glaring out at me each day.

I, on the other hand, have to pay the piper for my lifetime of not really following Jesus all the way. Without going into detail in public print, let’s just say I have a bunch of messes, mostly originating from the biggest cesspool in my life: my heart.

I cry with the Psalmist,”My problems are going from bad to worse (Psalm 25:17a).”  (He adds pleadingly,”Save me from them all!”)

These same people who are getting a free ride on their sins, from my point of view anyway, are not shy about telling the rest of us what to do about ours. (I don’t know, even as I write that it seems a little unfair. I do the same thing-trying to play God in the lives of others.)

What I wonder is if my earthly life can still be redeemed. I am beginning to feel like one of my favorite fictional characters, Dr. Gregory House-the king of curmdgeons.

House consistently displays his flaws from week-to-week in the TV drama that bears his name. Into his eighth and final season, it doesn’t appear as if the not-so-good doctor will ever change.

He is left with only one loving aspect it seems. This was revealed recently as he dealt with one of his colleagues, Dr. Robert Chase.

Chase is about to tell a nun who had previously struggled with her beliefs that her renewed faith and desire to return to the convent has to do with a chemical reaction to her brain from a near-death experience, not a spiritual awakening. Chase has fallen in love with the nun and wants to keep her.

But he has his own issues, which House sees right through. It’s not that House is particularly religious -far from it.  He just realizes Chase would be making a big mistake, trying to bring the woman back to him for all the wrong reasons.

For one, Chase himself has just had a near death experience. A few weeks before a patient nearly stabbed him to death.

Chase defends his rationale and attacks House for his intent to bring him to his senses:

Chase (to House): She’s throwing away her life because of blind faith.

House: So are you! She’s found something she wants to build her life around. It’s a total illusion, but apparently she’ll take a little ignorance with her bliss. And you want to take that away?

Chase: How many times have you thrown the truth in people’s faces?

House: Because it’s the truth, not because we’re gonna live happily ever after.

House: Either your relationship just blows up like every other non-magical romance, or she stays with you but blames you for stripping all the meaning out of her life.

Chase: (angrily) This has nothing to do with the truth. You don’t like that I’m reassessing my life, that I want to change it, that I can.

House: Anyone can screw up a life. I never said that wasn’t possible.

Chase: You’re incapable of human connection, so you want everyone to be like you.

House: If I wanted you to be like me… I would be urging you to make a stupid, stubborn decision that blows up your life and leaves you lonely and miserable. You reassess your life when you’ve made mistakes. You didn’t. You just got stabbed. 

Thus, the only goodness that can come from House after a life of curmdugeonliness is to tell someone else,”Don’t be like me!”.

I am hoping my life isn’t so far gone that I end up being some old guy who tells young whippernsnappers,”Do as I say, not as I do (or did).”

What I discovered though as I walked through the harbor today is that what really matters is what Jesus Christ thinks of me, not what others, even those closest to me, think. More than that, what He thinks of me is more crucial than what I think of myself.

What I know is that Jesus died to give me grace. He paid the price for my sins, past, present and future.

Can this aging leopard change his spots at this date (Jeremiah 13:23). I don’t know, but if any transformation is going to come about, it is going to happen through completely turning my life over to the care of Jesus.

So instead of looking at my dirty smudges, and the frowns of those around me who don’t care much for them either, I think it’s best I just look into the face of Christ. There I’ll get a smile.

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“Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close (Psalm 27:10)”.

Francis Phelan is a bum. That’s what he calls himself and his comrades on the streets of Albany, New York. Today, we call people like Francis homeless.

Francis is the lead character in the book “Ironweed” by William Kennedy. The book won a Pulitzer Prize.

In addition, the story was made into a movie by the same name. Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep were both nominated for Academy Awards for their roles as Francis and his girlfriend Helen.

The story is a moving and troubling one. It’s 1939 and Francis has been running from his past since 1910, when he dropped his infant son, resulting in his death.

His life had once been promising. Francis had even played Major League baseball.

Now he goes from place to place in Albany, trying to find a place to sleep for himself and Helen. Francis scrounges a dollar  or two out of odd jobs mainly to buy booze.

Helen is seemingly the more responsible of the two. She is better with money anyway, and chastizes Francis for his free ways with a buck.

Yet, she is also haunted by her past. Helen came from a good family and appeared to have a career as a singer or pianist in view.

However, she was eventually abandoned by her married piano teacher, a man who also seduced her. Helen, like Francis, ended up on the street.

“Ironweed” portrays the plight of the homeless from day to day. If it is true, as F. Scott Fitgerald wrote, that the rich are not like you and I,  then you could say the same about the homeless.

Out on the streets, it’s open season.  The hobos of Ironweed have a tough existence.

Before he returned to Albany, Francis rode the rails, a common occurrence in the Depression. During one episode in a boxcar, a man who admires his shoes tells Francis”I’m gonna cut off your feet” and proceeds to go after him with a meat cleaver.

Helen has her purse snatched on Halloween by a group of masked urchins. She had what amounted to her life savings in the bag -15 dollars.

Helen also suffers indignities no woman should have to face. Francis, seeking a place for her to sleep, puts her up in a car with a bum who spends his nights in an old wreck of a car.

Francis knows Helen will have to do more for the man than just be pleasant. However, in his mind he doesn’t have many options for her.

Both Francis and Helen are subject to incidents of mental illness. Francis hallucinates that the men he has killed in his travels, including the meat cleaver bearer, are in his presence taunting him.

Helen is invited to sing at a gin house by the bartender, a former renouned singer himself. As she sings, she imagines the audience is hailing her performance with cheers and great applause.

The truth is, when she finishes, Helen receives a mild clap or two. She idly leaves the stage with a sense of disappointment.

The life of the bum includes poverty, crime, mental disability and addictions. A good many of us have never experienced lives like those of Francis or Helen and can’t imagine having to live that way. However, in our current times  having to scramble hour after hour to exist isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

It’s not just the extremists and conspiracy theorists who are warning of potential economic collapse. Every day, I read some report in which a reputable government official or business  person  is decrying the state of the world economy and hinting at a future of economic hardhsip at least as difficult as the Depression.

I’ve never been homeless or extremely poor, although I’ve come close a time or two. It is a hopeless and powerless place to be.

At times I have been  poor enough not to be able to afford health coverage for my family, but with enough income to not be eligible for assistance from the government. During one of those periods, it was extremely frustrating to not be able to find medical care for a sick daughter at a free clinic because we didn’t live in the county offering it. (Our county was next door and didn’t offer such a service.)

When you are homeless and in poverty, or close to it, you feel abandoned. And you are to some degree.

In once scene from “Ironweed”, a drunken woman is sick and drunk outside a city mission. The preacher who runs it is a good man, but he refuses to  take people who are not sober in over night.

Francis tries to help her, but he is powerless except to ask for a blanket and some soup for the woman from the mission. When he returns, he and Helen find her being eaten by wild dogs.

The Bible describes such happenings. People in dire straits are subject to the attack of wild animals (Psalm 79:1-2).

Sometimes the predators are human.  Jesus desribed them as “dogs” (Psalm 22:16).”  Wild beasts of all varieties are out there who would like nothing better to make a feast of some vulnerable person on the street.

We may not have the greatest digs in the world, and might even end up homeless, but the person who follows Jesus can know one thing: they have not been abandoned.

In fact, every day we can live, at least spiritually, in a mansion. The Psalmist wrote:

“One thing I ask from the LORD,
   this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
   all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the LORD
   and to seek him in his temple. 
For in the day of trouble
   he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
   and set me high upon a rock.

  Then my head will be exalted
   above the enemies who surround me;
at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy;
   I will sing and make music to the LORD. (Psalm 27:4-6)”

Governments, corporations and corrupt people may try to take away our dignity. That’s impossible though because the source of our self respect is in our relationship with God.

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Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever.  They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.  Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes (Psalm 112:6-8).”

Monday is rough. It is a good day to be afraid.

You don’t know what the week holds. Plus, you are just coming off the weekend, where rest, relaxation and recreation are the expectation.

It is culture shock pure and simple. Yet, we know what’s coming.

On Sunday night we get a little squirrelly in anticipation of the week ahead. What new challenges will we face.

Then Monday comes, as it has for me this morning.  As is usually the case, I am having a difficult time getting going.

This morning it is because I really don’t have anything on the schedule, at least exactly. I have enough to do, and expect a meeting to occur some time about some personal business, but generally I can flex a little in terms of when I do the needed activities.

So hear I sit at 10:41 Monday morning, writing this entry. I am a 10 o’clock scholar, and hopefully I will show up at my office about noon.

Now, Tuesday is a different day. Usually by that time the barnacles from the weekend have been scraped off and we are in the midst of whatever battle we are facing for the week.  We are usually too busy to be anxious or afraid on a Tuesday.

Tuesday morning on September 11, 2001 in New York by all accounts was gorgeous to behold. The temperature was mild, the sky blue and the sun bright.

It was one of those days I suppose when the weather brightens your mood. Furthermore, Monday is gone, so hopefully you feel better about things.

By 9 am on this Tuesday morning, any good feelings had gone. They were replaced by emotions like fear and anger.

When the planes hit the World Trade Center, our feelings and our world changed in an instant. We were at war with an unknown and unseen enemy.

Now, ten years after the event, a lot has happened. The enemy has been identified and put on the run.

There have been a lot of courageous acts in that time, many of them occurring on September 11 itself. The bravery of a lot of people has helped a lot of us get through this monumental period in history.

America’s president spoke of the last 10 years and the effects of this courage on Sunday. The headline accompanying the text of this speech read AMERICA DOES NOT GIVE IN TO FEAR.

The Bible tells us, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

Ten years ago, America confronted one of our darkest nights. Mighty towers crumbled. Black smoke billowed up from the Pentagon. Airplane wreckage smoldered on a Pennsylvania field. Friends and neighbors, sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters—they were taken from us with heartbreaking swiftness and cruelty. On September 12, 2001, we awoke to a world in which evil was closer at hand, and uncertainty clouded our future.

In the decade since, much has changed for Americans. We’ve known war and recession, passionate debates and political divides. We can never get back the lives we lost on that day, or the Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in the wars that followed.

Yet today, it is worth remembering what has not changed. Our character as a nation has not changed. Our faith—in God and each other—that has not changed. Our belief in America, born of a timeless ideal that men and women should govern themselves; that all people are created equal, and deserve the same freedom to determine their own destiny—that belief, through test and trials, has only been strengthened.

These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit—these patriots defined the very nature of courage. Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism—in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up to save lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on.

America did not give into fear because it had leadership that helped the country rebound from that terrible day 10 years ago. The Bible also speaks of a man who did not surrender to his own fright or the anxieties of others.

In I Samuel 23 it tells of a time when David was told of a September 11 type event in a city called Keilah. The people were under attack from Israel’s enemy the Philistines.

The first thing David did was ask God if he should fight. After all, he was on the run from the king of Israel, who was trying to kill him and his supporters.

God told him to fight. However, this didn’t set well with David’s men, who told him that they were afraid enough running from the king. Why take on a battle that really belonged to him.

David again did not respond to their fears or his own. He went back to the Lord to add this piece of information and find out what to do.

God once more told David to go to war. Thus, he and his men went and defeated the Philistines.

You would think that Saul, the king of Israel, would be grateful. Instead, he saw the coming out of David into the open as his opportunity to kill him.

David did what he had done before. He went to God to determine if he was in danger.

When David found out from the Lord that he would indeed be turned over to Saul by the people he had just saved, he and his men escaped.

God not only responded to David’s faith in coming to Him for aid when he was afraid, but he sent his beloved friend Jonathan to encourage him and help him “find his strength in God (I Samuel 23:16)”.

David is the role model of how to respond when fear strikes. In summary, even when he himself was afraid and the people around him also showed fear, he repeatedly went to God for instructions about what to do.

David did not get stuck in his fright or that of others, or suffer from the “paralysis of analysis”. He turned his thinking over to God, who had much greater wisdom.

What is more, this story of David tells us how gracious God is when we are afraid. We can go to Him and ask for flesh and blood human beings to give us the encouragement we need to continue to trust God, even when the chips are down.

It’s almost noon on my Monday. The examples of those who showed  heroism on and after September 11, and David’s actions at Keilah, when he ran to God instead of ran away,  have given me the small spark I need in my spirit.

I am ready to go to work.

 

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 May he give you the desire of your heart  and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests. Now this I know: The LORD gives victory to his anointed. He answers him from his heavenly sanctuary with the victorious power of his right hand.  Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.  They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm. LORD, give victory to the king! Answer us when we call (Psalm 20:4-9).”

As I sit in a McDonald’s tonight, the weather outside is frightful. The lights and displays in here are flashing on and off.

This is because there is a violent thunderstorm accompanied by lightning outside. If I was smart, I would turn off my computer. But, I guess I am not.

We humans are fascinated by the weather, aren’t we? I mean, we have an entire cable TV channel dedicated to it.

It’s usually on the monitor to the left of my treadmill at the gym. I learn about the weather whether I want to or not.

Another cable channel had a show about the effect of weather on history while I was exercising. They mentioned how a violent tornado caused the British to flee Washington, D.C. during the War of 1812.

The British infamously burned down the White House during this raid. But the tornado killed more of them than the American army did and they took off.

Last night the family watched a computer-animated flick called “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”. In the movie, failed young inventor Flint Lockwood creates a machine that turns water into food.

Needing power, he hooks his machine up to his town’s power grid and the machine shoots into the stratosphere like a rocket. With the water in the clouds, the machine begins to rain food on Flick’s town and he becomes a hero.

Unfortunately, the machine goes out of control and mutates food. Soon, the whole world is being rained on and violent weather such as a spaghetti tornado wrecks his town.

Landmarks all over the world are destroyed by food weather. Flint goes from hero to goat.

As a result, Flint hides in a trash can, where his father find him. His Dad wants to know what he is doing there.

Flint tells his Dad that he is where he belongs. Since Flint is “junk”, he belongs with the junk in the can.

With encouragement from his father and help from him as well, Flint manages to fix the problem threatening the world. He destroys the food machine at the risk of his life. The world is freed from weather-borne pizzas, bagels and spaghetti and meatballs.

One morning this weekend I found myself in a state park, sleeping in a campground. I awoke to a beautiful, bright sun shining through the trees.

This was made even more impressive by the fact that the last couple of weeks have been filled with clouds and rain. The day ahead held a lot of promise.

While out in the nature, I sat at the picnic table at my site and turned to the day’s Psalm.  I read:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 
Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge. 
They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them. 
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. 
It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
   like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
   and makes its circuit to the other;
   nothing is deprived of its warmth (Psalm 19:1-6).”

About that point I felt a little like Flint after his machine began to wreck the world. I was overwhelmed by the effects some of my choices had made on me, and I felt like junk.

However, when I read about the sun, this brought to mind a vague question the Apostle Paul made: “Is it with ____that God is concerned?”  I couln’t remember the topic, but it turns out what Paul was referring to was oxen.

Like Paul, I figured God didn’t put this passage about the sun in the Bible because He had a big concern about this inanimate creation of His. He of course is concerned about people, not heavenly bodies.

Paul uses this simile: “It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, 
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.” Paul humanizes the sun. I think God is making the point here that we humans can be victorious, bright and strong, like the sun he planted in a tent in the sky.

At the time I read this, I felt quite defeated. However, I have been reflecting on this passage this weekend and thought that I don’t have to roll over and die or toss myself in the junk can like Flint Lockwood did.

The rest of this Psalm, after the segment on the sun, talks about how perfect and “right, radiant and pure” God’s Word is. It appears to me that if I want to shine like the sun, then I need to soak up the Bible and apply it to my life –daily.

If I depend on my own resources for success in life, my guess is that I will end up like Flint Lockwood BEFORE he listened to his Dad. However, if I listen to my Heavenly Father and heed His word, AND enlist his aid as Flint did AFTER his father encouraged him, then I can 0vercome my obstacles and difficulties.

Sometimes my problems are self-imposed. Sometimes they come from other people. More than ever, I am convinced many of them come from that devil Satan.

Whatever, the source, with God the Father’s encouragement I can triumph and succeed over the people and things that oppose His plan for me. 

Tomorrow morning when I wake up I know now I can be strong and courageous in my life because my Father rescued my from the junk pile. I don’t have to be a  wimp and let the storms buffet me anymore.

My heavenly Father has helped me before. He will do it again. Somehow, of late I have forgotten that in the midst of my storms. No longer.

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 “How precious to me are your thoughts, God!  How vast is the sum of them!.. Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts (Psalm 139:17,23).”
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Where do people go when they are on the run? Apparently, there are a lot of places available.

A blogger named Fredric Rice provides ideas for people wanting to disappear. He tells his readers about the pros and cons of running away to the desert, hopping freight trains and living in public camps and national forests. Rice even suggests joining the Peace Corp as an alternative.

I suppose all of us have at least mentally packed our bags at one time or another. Images of the beach are attractive in troubled times.

There are probably a multitude of reasons why a person would want to disappear. One poignant entry to the question “Why do people run away” was made by  a young woman named Chris S. on the Care 2 website. Here’s her story:

“There are many reasons why people runaway, and if others understand what goes on in the thoughts and emotions of those who do run, it may help prevent more.  I can’t possibly go through them all but I can talk about myself.  I ranaway the first time when I was 4 years old, would have run at around 14 to 16 and ran again at 21.

I have my suspicions that running like this is a form of mental illness, much like depression, I still get those feelings to this day where I would like to “disappear” when things get tough going for me, only now as a single parent I fight the urge and keep going and stay.

The first time I ran at 4 was simply because I felt unwanted and unloved, my mother had recently given birth to my brother, and up until then I had still been sleeping in my crib, in my parents room.  At his birth I was moved into my own room and a big bed with no explanations.  To cap this he was born disabled and needed several hospital appointments and an operation to correct his physical disability.  I felt pushed out, not wanted, no-one thought to explain to me what was happening and why.  I may have been a child, but I still had feelings.  So one morning I packed a few toys and walked several miles to my grandmother’s.  Naturally I got taken back, but still no explanations, even after I told them why I left.  I grew up in that kind of atmosphere with a mother who never talked or listened to whatever I said, there was a lot of other stuff going on too, it became clear as I grew up that she never bonded with me and she did admit that she didn’t want me and would have sent me to a children’s home if it wasn’t for my dad refusing to let her.  I would have ran as a teenager, but I didn’t know where to go, besides at that point my mother at this point had another child, my sister, whom I instantly became very close and protective towards.

I did the next best thing in my mind, I married at 17 at the first opportunity, in fact I became pregnant by my boyfriend and I think looking back it was a subconscious act to leave the family home as my mother said she would put me out onto the streets if I did get pregnant.

The last time I ran at 21, I had a little girl and was unhappily married.  My husband was in the kitchen and something snapped in my mind, I felt worthless, all those years of being mentally beaten down, not listened to, feeling unwanted, unappreciated, came to a head.  I got up from the sofa, didn’t even collect my coat or purse, walked out of the house, leaving the door open.  It was pitch dark and I walked pretty much as I was able, allowing for turns in the roads, etc, in a straight line from my door.  I had no idea where i was heading for, the instinct was to walk in a straight line.  As it happens that direction took me to the cliff tops at our coastline, I didn’t feel suicidal, there was no urge to jump so I was faced with turning left or right.  At first I followed the path to the right, it was in my head that runaways all headed to London, and London was right.  Then it occurred to me if all runaways went to London, that “they” would look for me first there.  In actual fact my family would never consider looking for me in London, but my thinking and logic wasn’t right, anyway I turned and began walking in the opposite direction and headed north, I had every intention of walking to Scotland as ludicrous as it seems, but at least I had enough sense to walk back to a footpath away from the edge of the clifftops.  After walking for some time I was going past a house with an open bedroom window, from which I heard a young child cry for it’s mother, it was only this that brought me out of that state of mind and walked back home, where I found my husband going up the wall with worry after finding me gone and the door left open.

Like I have said when things get on top of me, I do get a return of the feeling to flee but I manage to keep them under control now.”

If you think saints don’t run away, think again. Elijah is a prime example of one who did.

A look at I Kings 19 will show that Elijah ran because he was 1) afraid 2) fed up 3) exhausted 4) and depressed. He had an authority after him, his king as a matter of fact, and he took off.

At his first stop, he sat down under a tree and prayed that he might die. Been there, done that.

God didn’t chastize Elijah for running off. In fact, He looked after him and made sure he had food, water and mental and physical strength as he traveled.

The interesting thing to me is Elijah’s final destination. He didn’t take off to the forest, a squatter’s camp, or hop a camel caravan.

Instead, he ran to where he thought he could meet with God. In fact, that’s what happened.

When he arrived, God did want Elijah to tell him why he was there in the first place. Indeed, he asked him twice,””What are you doing here, Elijah?”.

God knew. After all, He’s omniscient. I just think he wanted Elijah to verbalize it so it would be clear in his own mind.

Elijah told God things as he saw them. He felt alone and betrayed, and he told God so.

Interestingly enough, he DIDN’T ask God to do something about it. Elijah just told the facts as he saw them, and God Himself took matters in hand.

Of course, God’s plan did involve Elijah. However, all the prophet had to do was listen to God and carry out God’s strategy, and leave the results with Him.

This morning, as I sat in a motel room, I thought,”Here I am running again.” One close friend recently told me that this is what I do when things go bad for me. (He also added that  I also lash out at my opponents.)

Before I took off, I had a lot of the emotions Chris S. wrote in her entry for Care 2. I was just flat out overwhelmed and needed a place to flee to get my bearings.

At least I ran  to God, not away from Him, this time. That was the purpose of the weekend I am just completing: to get off and try and get some insight on what to do next from Him.

I couldn’t run from God anyway. The Psalmist wrote,”Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).” A cheap motel is nothing to God.

Before I left my room for the state park where I spent the afternoon, I asked God to tell me His thoughts, and to search mine. I wanted real communication with Him.

After I read Elijah’s story, I just told my complaint to God, as the prophet did. I don’t know what is to be done about it, but I’m sure God will tell me when He is ready.

As for me, I am all ears.

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“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,  who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (II Corinthians 1:3,4).”

The other morning I went to put on some clean pants and noticed a problem. They wouldn’t fasten.

I figured that maybe they had shrunk in the wash. Surely I could not have put on weight.

I reviewed my diet of the last couple of weeks and came up with a sad conclusion. I had eaten my way into a bigger belly.

The main culprit I believe is the food sitting around the office. My colleagues tend to leave their goodies in our small kitchenette for the taking.

With my sweet tooth, this is dangerous. However, the taste for a delectable treat isn’t the main reason I think I eat that stuff.

The reality is I need comfort food. In our fast-paced, stress filled environment at the office, there is little time to eat.

In the pressure of the day, when I look over at the kitchen counter, 10 feet from my desk, I can’t resist the solace that sweet thing gives me. So I gobble it down.

Add these regular slurps of dessert at work to our weekend ice cream at home, and the occasional grocery store doughnut, and you have a fatty waiting to happen.  Coming to this realization at the end of this week didn’t keep my from crunching on the leftover cupcake in my classroom, or the half eaten cherry pie in the kitchenette, however.

I surmise that there is only one solution to my problem: I’ve gotta find my comfort in something else besides food.

I am a comfort freak. Always have been. My idea of camping is the Holiday Inn.

Unfortunately, the symathy I gain from comfort food is counterfeit. It doesn’t last, and it is actually harmful.

It’s kind of like trying to get  joy from a Badfinger song when you actually need the Beatles. If you don’t remember Badfinger, they were a 70s group that many considered the heirs of the sound of the great John, Paul, George and Ringo. Does anybody remember Pete, Tom, Ron and Joey?

As one review blogger puts it, “Badfinger were one the best Beatles ripoffs to harmonize in the early ’70s; though naturally the imitation pales in comparison to the original (http://starling.rinet.ru/music/temp/badfinger.html)”. This blogger is spot on.

Badfinger is appealing. But I knew the Beatles (at least in my ear), and Badfinger, you’re no Beatles.

The reason Badfinger never reached their potential is because the boys put   their trust in a bad man. Their American manager apparently ran off with their riches.

The result was financial ruin and two suicides among the band members. The group folded.

We oughtn’t put our trust in food, or people, for comfort. Badfinger sang a hit song in which they portrayed a boy trying to get a girl to find her solace in him:

“No matter what you are
I will always be with you
Doesn’t matter what you do girl, oh girl with you
No matter what you do
I will always be around
Won’t you tell me what you found girl, oh girl won’t you
Knock down the old brick wall, and be a part of it all
Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do
If you would give me all, as I would give it to you
Nothing would be, nothing would be, nothing would be
No matter where you go
There will always be a place
Can’t you see in my face girl, oh girl don’t you.”

Obviously, if this girl was real, she was in for a big disappointment. Her suitor was undependable as a bad tooth.

 He didn’t hang around when things got tough. Offering comfort to her, he bailed and committed suicide.

I know deep in my heart that there is only one place I can find the consolation I seek in comfort food at my office, or in the grocery shelf. Only Jesus Christ can provide the feeling of relief and encouragement I am looking for.

John the Baptist sought comfort from Jesus and got it. He had hoped against hope that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

But John found himself in jail and his life was in danger. Indeed, he would soon be beheaded.

John had his doubts. So he sent his followers to ask Jesus if He were IT or not. Here is what Jesus said in reply to John’s query:

“Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor (Matthew 11:4-5).”

Jesus was, and is,  the real deal. He was, and is,  the embodiment of the comfort only God can offer (Matthew 11:27-30).

The next time the pressure is on and I run for the truffle at work,  I need to remember that the temporary, phoney strength it will provide  pales in comparison to that offered by God through Jesus Christ.

The next time my colleagues leave a goodie around, I should adopt the philosophy of Jesus, who said when offered some chow by his disciples,”My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work (John 4:34).”

I think this self control will benefit not only my waistline, but also put me on the right path to a lifestyle helpful to others as well.

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