The Zombie Apocalypse is Real

I always flip the channel when the zombie previews air. With three youngish kids around, I notice a direct correlation to sleepless nights and the walking dead. I don’t sleep and I like sleep. They don’t sleep so I don’t sleep. Nobody sleeps and we become the walking dead we tried to avoid by flipping the flippin’ channel! DSC_0153

Ok, joking and sleep issues aside. There is something to this whole zombie apocalypse thing. As much as I want to call foul, evil, and bad every time the walking dead comes on air, it strikes a deeper tone to me.

Whoever conceived this idea of zombies is saying something important. There are the living dead, and they are among us. This show is a major, major hit. This message is resonating with people.

In the show its real zombies and, of course, we all know…hahaha…they don’t exist and you are only really afraid when your brothers prank you after your wisdom teeth are extracted, right?

I think it goes deeper than that, though. Artists write about these things because they think about them. They think about them because they are imaginative. They imagine them, I suppose, because they sense them. People watch this stuff because it is entertaining, and it touches on reality.

There’s some truth in what all this zombie stuff says.

People feel like zombies. I feel like a zombie in the early morning before coffee, late at night when I’m played out, and all times of the day when I’m jet lagged. I can identify physical reasons for my zombie-ness.

Many times I can also identify spiritual reasons for my zombie-like state. I’m mad at God. I’m mad at someone else. I’m sad. I’m grieving. I’m hopeless. Life is overwhelming. We go through the motions and no one notices we aren’t alive.

Some feel like zombies most of the time because their soul condition is fatal and their bodies are still alive. And they know it. And its true. They’ve never seen the cardiologist, they just know. Impending doom. Dead dread.

It’s the opposite of the living hope offered to us. Living hope is life-giving blood running through our spiritual veins, soft hearts of flesh, and woundable bodies because there is more to this life. Living hope comes through the blood of Jesus who died for us and provided the cure for the virus of sin that overtakes us.

My hope is those that feel like the walking dead in their soul and bodies would tell someone who understand the cure and extend it.  It is the antidote to the death that will come to all of us in the flesh.

Our flesh speaks to this death. We all know we will die. It is a horror. It is shocking. And it is scary to watch.

While we will all die one day, death need not come to all of us in the soul. And, when the soul lives, the flesh will live again one day, too.

That is the living hope. Because of Jesus, though we die, yet we live.

The hope is not just for the deathbed, though, it is for the now, too. I may feel like a zombie sometimes, but it is not my true and permanent state.

That’s also the living hope.

 

Walking the Shadows

Time is ticking and I want to make plans. I want to write on my calendar what happens what days and every time I lift my pencil, I think of what I do not and cannot know. I do not know the path of my father’s growing brain tumor. I do not know when he will die. I am not in control.

I long for certainty. Certain of attending a graduation event with my daughter. Certain of attending a dinner with my small group. Certain of chaperoning my son’s field trip. Certain of something.

The only thing I feel certain of is death.

My hand stalls in midair but I press through and fill blank space on the calendar knowing death may interrupt every thing I write.

I do not know the times God plans for my father and his brain tumor. I cannot know the measure of days for him, for myself, for my husband and children, for anyone. So much uncertainty and I want to know, to make a plan I feel certain I can fulfill.

But I cannot. God forces me to open my clenched fists and receive what He gives for today. To sacrifice plans I make if necessary to accept the ones God hands down for today. He forces me to release so much so that I can take hold of what He gives.IMG_1410

I do not like what He wants to give me. I do not want to release my plans, because I think they are better than grief and mourning. They certainly feel more comfortable.

Years of practice and many difficult farewells overseas and I know a shadow of grief. I know it’s pain and  I’d rather not. I’d just rather not write grief, mourning, sadness on my calendar in ink for the next few years. But, that is God’s plan for me.

He’s walked me through the shadows before. Can I trust Him to walk me through the reality of a more final farewell with my father?

 

Walking the Blind Side

His plate sat there half full of scrambled eggs as he reached for more. I watched as he spooned some more on the right side. Then he ate the right side leaving a line straight up the middle. Eggs on the left. No eggs on the right. I turned the plate and it was like a magic trick.

The brain is fascinating. When signals don’t come from the eyes, it fills in the blanks, interpreting from what it’s learned. My dad doesn’t realize he can’t see his left side. That means walking into walls and furniture, knocking things over.

Now he often needs help on his blind side to prevent a fall or running into things. It’s a lesson in humility, I’m sure. For me it’s a lesson in service.

I’m constantly watching and adjusting on the blind side, learning his limits, walking the fine line between parent and child. Sometimes I tell him like it is, and he follows. Other times there’s no leading him anywhere, only hanging on for the ride. Like when he wanted to do a pre-op snow angel outside the hospital.

Walking the blind side is a privilege, but he’s a man not used to being guided. He’s led where he doesn’t want to go. Like Peter in the Bible.

When you were young , you would tie your belt and walk wherever you wanted. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will tie you and carry you where you don’t want to go. John 21:18

At this point we’re not tying him up. Its a tempting option when he’s home alone and inclined to test limits that are steadily changing.

He’s not the only blind person. I’m as blind as my dad about what’s next. My mom less so, but this is the first brain tumor in our family. We pray it’s the last.

None of us wants to walk this path. We’re learning and we’re taking faltering steps into unknown territory. I’m growing wary of what I can’t see ahead, like my dad.

Follow Me. That’s the big question, bound on this path, will I follow Jesus? Will I go where I don’t want to go, because that’s where He’s going? What does faith look like on this path?

I will walk the blind side again today and tomorrow and for a long time to come. At least, it will feel long. Doctors say it will not be nearly long enough.

God knows the path. Will I follow?

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The Side View

You would think that dodging motorcyclists, pedestrians, and lane-crossers that my capacity for the relative calm and peace of the American roadway would usher in less stress.  I sure believed such things.

I believed I conquered driving stress as a road warrior in Asia, or at least I believed my experiences driving in Asia at least increased my immunity to stress on the road.  Oh, how wrong I was!  Driving in the U.S. of A. ranks among my most surprising sources of stress upon re entry.

I realized the level of my defensiveness, my learned behavior in Asia, was making me dangerous.  My husband and I joked about my PTSD on the road but it wasn’t a joke.  My inability to remain in a lane for fear the car next to me will drift into my lane was, among other behaviors, highly dangerous and I knew it.

The surge of my foot to the brake when any car pulls up to enter traffic from a parking lot is lightening quick.  I break whenever a car even looks like it is thinking about pulling into traffic.  Why?  Drivers in Asia never stop on the way out of a parking lot, trusting that all other drivers will just make room for them.  So, I have deep trust issues.

I drive slow.  Traffic in Asia is mostly pretty slow as it all happens in highly congested cities.  Most of the time I drove at about 30-40 miles an hour.  I was unprepared for traffic to move at 60-70 miles an hour on weaving highways with concrete barriers blocking out the shoulder.  Add to that, drivers seem to trust that others will stay in their lanes which makes them completely comfortable to hang out right next to me at high speeds.  This reckless behavior just sends adrenaline streaking through my body.

To make it worse, sometimes I wasn’t driving but my husband was behind the wheel.  Such losses of control in areas of fear are true tests of character.  Well, I failed them all.  My efforts to grab hold of anything in the car and my convulsive movements into crash positions when he was driving made me dangerous even in the passenger seat!  Fortunately, my husband is understanding and did his best to patiently ignore his crazy wife in the passenger seat.

There is always something unexpected in transition and I began to clue in that driving was my unexpected stressor this time.  Did not see that one coming!  Ah, pride, what a blinder of the soul.  I thought I owned the road and maybe I did just a little…in Asia…but in Texas?  Not at all.  The road was owning me.

So after much soul searching I began looking out the side window instead of looking out the windshield (only when I’m not driving of course).  It took me awhile to do this because, for some reason, I thought that yielding my ability to look forward would somehow negate my control of the future.  So silly!  But, fear usually does not go hand in hand with calm logic.

In this season of fear, I’m struck by the simplicity of living in the present.  Our present is full of boxes, half unpacked or in transit or in a storage unit.  It is also a season of road trips and visiting family and friends.  We are in transition and the longing of my soul is for that future point in which we are settled, so it is difficult to say the least to live in the present.

Living in the present is looking out the side window observing and noticing what is right next to me rather than reacting to all that might could possibly happen.

Even though the present passes by quickly it is beautiful and not to be missed.

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The Chair

DSC_0231Faith is like sitting in a chair.  Ever heard that one?  The speaker demonstrates their point by looking at a perfectly good, sturdy chair theorizing about how it looks capable of holding his weight.  I usually hear it in the context of a sermon or talk on faith in Christ.  Then, it goes on…faith is actually sitting in the chair…trusting the chair.  The speaker sits in the chair and, of course, it holds him.

Now, this chair…I’m fairly certain no speaker in his right mind wants to demonstrate this deep point using this chair.  It is a very cheap chair to begin with and, note, wire holds the chair together.  Because we repair broken things, we know this chair is broken…but it still might hold a person.

This chair compelled me to take this picture.  I couldn’t not take this picture.  This poor chair is so bedraggled and, yet, so easily and inexpensively replaced that I must wonder at the poverty that motivates fixing it.  It is undoubtedly extreme beyond anything I know.

I often think this is how it really looks like when I exercise faith.  I see a dirty, cheap chair held together by wire and I decide if I want to sit in it.  This speaks volumes about how much I trust the Lord but it also explains a reality…often the circumstances do not make it easy to walk in faith.

Seldom does the chair look secure.

I did not sit in this chair so I cannot write something witty about how I fell or how surprised I looked when it did hold my weight.  I do keep remembering this chair as I ponder faith.  It reminds me that faith is risky yet the One I choose to place my faith in is not.

He is sure but His ways are not my ways.  He sees things differently than I do.  And, I see things shaded by my fear and imperfections.  Sadly, He looks more like this broken chair and what He asks of me looks more like this too.

I look for security…crave security… and He asks me to live by faith in the things that are not seen.  But every time I sit in what looks like a dirty broken chair, I learn He is trustworthy.

What comes to mind about faith when you look at this chair?

From the Outside…

In August of 2001 we left a huge black trunk just outside the terminal exit in LAX.  That trunk held 70 pounds of items we guessed we might need for our new life in Asia.  When we realized we forgot it, my husband rushed back to the airport and easily reclaimed it with a big sigh of relief.

3 weeks later a midnight phone call from my mom awoke us in Asia.  Buildings collapsing.  Planes grounded.  Chaos.  A world away and half asleep I wondered what was going on.  The fatigue of transition meant that I fell right back to sleep.  In the morning we met with our coworkers and learned more.  We read Psalm 91.  The arrows that fly by day.  The pestilence that stalks in darkness.  The destruction that lays waste at noon.  The words lived.

Some visiting friends checked into a nicer than normal hotel.  We all wanted to watch CNN.  A few hours of coverage gave us enough idea of the seriousness of this act of terror.  War, we knew, followed any such act of violence.

Throughout the year, we encountered the new state of the world.  We heard of close friends going to war yet 9/11 occupied only a few minutes of conversation with our local friends.  We received a new Yemeni student in our language class and his dark stare made me pack up my shorts early.  Rumor had it that other foreign students participated in a huge brawl over an insult delivered about 9/11.  Another rumor related how a Middle Eastern student hung a poster praising the attacks.  But no one wants to wake the dragon so we felt pretty safe.

Upon returning to America 10 months later, I noticed drastic changes.  We deplaned on 4th of July weekend.  Lining the halls to passport control stood dozens of heavily armed guards dressed in black.  I looked up and noticed the sign that welcomed me to the United States.  Travelers donned t-shirts seeming to demand God Bless America.

This was not the America I left.  I didn’t know what to think but I did know that by not experiencing the fear and the terror in the same way, I was different.  Where others dressed in patriotic shirts and wore American flag pins, I had quietly packed away my baseball cap that displayed the American flag.  I retrieved it only on special occasions…like the 4th of July because I love my country.  DSC_0252

I guess I would say that living overseas post 9/11 challenged me to look at nationality and faith while standing outside my earthly home.  I’m still figuring out how it shaped me but in a few areas I know more than I did before 9/11.

This world is not my home.  I am an ambassador on assignment anywhere I live.  And, I long for my true home more than I long for the United States of America…and I long for the US a lot sometimes!

I know, too, that a 70 pound bag left on the curb is no small thing anymore and goodbyes get said barefoot at security because the world is not safe.  It never was.

For those of you overseas during 9/11, how did 9/11 affect you?

Presence

This past week a host of troubles loomed before us ranging from midnight trips to the emergency room for my son’s breathing problems to hiccups registering kids in their new school and everything in between and on the outside too.DSC_0090

What miraculously never left me in these and moments and others was the settled knowledge that God’s presence in my life never left…not for one second.  I still trembled with fear and shook with sadness but I knew He was in the storm with me.  I’ve not always been that person.

Presence is a powerful thing.  The past few weeks highlighted my need for the presence of the Lord who never leaves me.  What I learned anew was how desperately I also needed the presence of His family who stands with me.

When friends showed up on our doorstep one night, I reveled in their presence.  When another friend stood by us in a special way it moved me to tears.  I needed their presence.

And, there’s just something about being bodily present with the family of God that cannot be explained…something that overpowers the worries of the world in a way nothing else can.

So I stand humbled by the presence of God in the storm this week.  Beyond that I know much more deeply my need for the physical presence of the body of Christ.  I’m sure I have still more to learn about presence too!

I’d love to hear about a time in your life when you realized how much you needed the body of Christ.  Please share below!

Lost!

20121101-132501.jpg“Mommy! We’re lost!” my son piped up from the back seat. We cruised around previously unexplored sections of our side of town. Our new car made it possible to explore more extensively and I like exploring. As I pondered the intersection I replied, “I’ve never been here before, but we’re not lost.”

How often I feel like him! I sit in the back seat, out of control and my soul is screaming, “I’m lost! I don’t know where I am or how to get home!” I hold no roadmap or sense of direction. I sweat and scramble to make a plan and carve a path in the thicket of life so I know where I stand or how to arrive at a destination, any destination. So I feel secure. I pretend to save myself.

5 years ago a host of friends moved away and I felt abandoned on a road I wanted to abandon, too. I enjoyed the journey before with my friends but now with the space cleared the openness and silence overwhelmed me. The expanse left felt like the valley of the shadow of death to me and I was no happy, contented sheep. Why was I on this road anyway?

I knew little of the shepherd on the next stretch though I learned. By the rod and the staff I learned as I felt poked and prodded through my fears. I learned His voice and His ways more in the coming years. Now, 5 years later I experience the same phenomena, a host of friends moving at the same time.

His peace and His rest reside in green fields and bubbling brooks but before that, and after and all around sometimes, come the valleys of death. I know my weakness and fear. I feel lost and I hear His voice more clearly now echoed in my son’s words.

“You have never been here before but you’re not lost.”

Cisterns and Springs

Mountain walks provide soul nourishment I never fully appreciated until I lived life surrounded by the noise of dense population.  Exploring and listening to the myriad sounds of silence lifts my soul.  On one such walk, I stumbled upon an interesting contraption to gather rain water and irrigate a small plot of land.  I snapped a picture and filed it away, not knowing for what I wanted to use it. DSC_0019

Fast forward 6 months and here I sit, thinking of that picture.  This image of a cistern captures my attention again.  Cisterns hold finite, defined amounts of water to sustain life.  Someone rigged this one to fill by itself but in general, cisterns require significant labor to fill because water weighs a ton.  Cisterns lose their effectiveness quickly.  Water left a few days becomes stale.  Containers break and they run out when drought arrives.  With cisterns, one knows how much water one possesses, making it easier and practical to divvy out and a source of fear as water runs low.  Rationing is reasonable and necessary with a cistern.

6 months after taking this shot I see what I missed then.  So often I live life as though my sustenance comes from a cistern.  A limited, contained, quickly stale, rationed source.  A fearfully fragile pot that I fill myself through much hardship.  Water weighs a ton.  My spiritual life feels like hard work and I decide on my portions.  I ration my efforts based on how much water I see in the container and the labor I know it takes to replace it.  Exhausting.

So when Jesus speaks of a spring bubbling up, my ears prick.  Springs produce water through no effort.  They spill water all around for anyone to gather.  Their limitless supply confounds the mind as the source stays mysteriously buried underground.  Springs clean themselves and never sit to stale.  Rationing?  Impossible and unneccesary.  Drought may come but the spring reaches farther down to draw up water.  Fear subsides as I see Jesus, the fountain of living water.

As I contemplated the cistern spiritual life I’m prone to lead or the spring-fed life Jesus offers, I want to throw down my heavy buckets and come to Him.  I search for ways I ration my outpouring–and the Lord reveals many–and gather with others at the spring for my daily drink.  The spring always bubbles up and I rest, quenched.

What differences do you see between a cistern and a spring?

The Thief in the Night

Dark places breed fear. Just ask my child who wakes in the night calling for me. Or, listen to my problems multiply in the dim light of evening. Troubles loom and monsters lurk in dark places.

I listened to my child tell of jaunts to the bathroom postponed until dawn, lamps switched on, and books read in the middle of the night. Being a fearful child myself, I relate. A bump in the day and a bump in the night? Totally different.

I talk myself out of fear with the lamp. “How silly!” I say to myself when I think of that thief that climbed into a third floor apartment. I turn on the lamp. Fear never feels silly. Totally justifiable. Proud in its awareness of dangers to be avoided. Telling someone to simply not be afraid falls short…far short.

Sunlight dawning in my soul says if the thief comes, he cannot take anything God does not allow for His purpose. Because, you see, the thief can and does come. The thief is real. Fear exists because evil exists.

Freedom comes as I acknowledge that the dark is dark but that the light overcomes the dark…and the light resides with me always.

How do you deal with fear?

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