Who Do You Trust?

It is very early in the morning, still dark outside.  I am reflecting over the last week.  What a week this has been!  A roller coaster!  A deluge of strange events, dystopian sights, and new words.  Coronavirus.  How it has changed our lives in a week.  People getting sick and people afraid of getting sick.  People trapped on cruise ships.  No one at Saint Peter’s Square or the Eiffel Tower.  Times Square practically empty on a Friday night.  Events cancelled.  No sports!  Store shelves empty and people afraid of running out of toilet paper when there is not even a real toilet paper emergency.  The stock market!  People watching their 401Ks plummet in a downhill slide so rapid it almost gives one whiplash.  And then, after the President speaks in the Rose Garden a 1000-point gain.  What will next week bring?  And the new words and phrases that have become a part of our vocabulary: self-quarantine, social distancing, and respiratory hygiene.  Who knew we needed lessons on how to wash our hands?  Universities sending their students home or putting all classes online.  People working from home.  And churches cancelling services.  Listen, when Disney and Apple stores shut down and Tom Hanks gets sick we know we are in trouble!

In the midst of this wild week, we are dealing with our own personal changes…just like everyone else.  My mother-in-law, Jerry’s 98-year old mom is declining and we need to make some changes for her.  Hopefully she will still be able to live at home, but she is falling frequently and her cognition is not what it has always been.  We spent a few days in Dallas with her…Jerry going to her doctor with her and me researching resources to help her.  I also got a chance to visit with my 94-year old mother the day before nursing homes went on lockdown.  “Lockdown.”  There is another word.

I’m listening to how my daughters and my friends have been affected.  We all have a story.  Everything is changing and the future is so uncertain.  I remember a television show in the 50s that gave a young Johnny Carson his start.  It was called Who Do You Trust?  So this morning in my very early Saturday morning quiet time, God reminds me that I can really only trust Him.  He never changes.  

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8  

Thank you, Lord.  Furthermore, He saw this week coming and He has it under control.  We plan and prepare and think we have our futures all laid out and then something happens to remind us that control is just an illusion.  The stock market can never really provide security.  Our aging loved ones are going to leave us some day.  And some day, other people will be making decisions about us.  In spite of all our preparations, someday our own health will fail.  We will die.  

Where is my bottom line, my investment with a floor, my safety net?  I can plan and prepare (and we should!) but the world can change in an instant.  I keep thinking of Psalm 20:7:

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God.  

Eventually I will lose all my chariots and horses.  They cannot protect me from every eventuality.  But God.  God remains.  He is constant.  And He loves and cares for me.

The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.  He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.  Isaiah 40: 28b 

I think I’ll go have another cup of coffee.

STANDING FIRM

For many of us in the Baby Boomer generation, a good many of our battles are behind us.  We survived childhood, battling measles, chicken pox, mumps and the practices of drinking from the garden hose and riding in the back window of the car.  God was definitely sending His angels to watch over us.  My mother’s biggest fear for her children was polio and she made us take a nap every day during the summer (somehow summer was worse for polio).  I hated those naps; now I love them!  

We made it through our teenage years with no atomic bomb, but we had those drills to prepare us.  Although too many of us did not survive the Vietnam War, those of us who were fortunate were able to begin our adult lives.  Some of us went to college, some got jobs, and some got married and started families.  We survived those early years of adulthood, stretching our paychecks and saving our Green Stamps.  We had babies and managed to keep them alive (more angels!), we worked hard to raise them right and teach them about the Lord. Then they left us, becoming responsible adults, eventually with families of their own.  

We became grandparents and had to relearn everything about babies because we found out we didn’t know anything.  The rules changed!  Do they sleep on their backs or stomachs?  We struggled with complicated car seats and strollers.  I still have flashbacks to the parking lot at Dillard’s trying to figure out how to fold the stroller and get it back in the car while a toddler howled in her car seat.  

Many of us are now retired. We have completed are careers and are now finding new ways to be useful. In theory we have more time now, but the time whizzes by at breakneck speed! Some of us are now (gasp) great-grandparents and chuckle at our kids wrestling with car seats.  But one of my favorite pictures is of my daughter falling in love with her new baby granddaughter.  Pure love!  

So even though there are challenges ahead, we have completed the biggest part of our earthly assignments.  As I thought abut these things, this verse from my quiet time particularly resonated with me: …”and having done all, to stand firm,” Ephesians 6;13b. We still need to stand firm, and that might be our most important job right now.  

My Bible study group (https://www.communitybiblestudy.org) has been doing a study called Return to Jerusalem and currently we are looking at the life of Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall.  In last week’s lesson the Jews completed building the wall (in only 52 days!) so Nehemiah’s next job was to make sure what they had accomplished was protected.  He needed to stand firm. He did this by appointing gatekeepers to control who came in and left the city and guards to patrol the walls and guard the houses. 

As I was reading these words I thought of my family and especially my grandchildren.  As parents and grandparents  we have done our jobs but we need guards at the gates and watchers on the walls.  I am so grateful that all my children and grandchildren have a saving relationship with the Lord, but that relationship must be carefully guarded because we have an enemy who would love to come in and confuse them and capture their hearts and minds. My job now is to be a watchman, to stand firm.

Although I don’t have as much daily influence as I did when my children were small, I have all of the armor of God that Ephesians 6 describes: the belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes that equip me to spread the gospel, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (God’s Word).  And then verse 18 admonishes us to pray at all times, to keep alert with all perseverance, and to pray for all the saints.  I love how The Message version completes this verse:

In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

This is how I can guard the gates and keep watch on the walls.  I can pray.  Jerry and I have really ramped up our prayer lives this year.  And although many of my big battles are behind me, my job as a guard and watchman is not over.  This is how I stand firm.

THE END OF AN ERA

We did something big today, something I never imagined we would do, but it was time.  We cancelled the newspaper.  I guess there are fewer and fewer of us who even subscribe to the paper anymore.  I don’t think any of my adult children do.  Maybe home delivery will die out with Baby Boomers.

I have been thinking about all the years I have enjoyed getting and reading the paper.  When we lived in Dallas and even when we moved to Tulsa, we took both the morning and afternoon newspapers.  The morning paper we read rather quickly, just to get the news.  But when the afternoon paper came it was a time to sit down and relax and read more of the features.  Maybe work a crossword puzzle or read Dear Abby.  We relied on the paper to tell us what the weather would be tomorrow, what was on television tonight, and what was on special at Safeway.  We needed the daily newspaper. Even the classified ads were interesting.  Remember the personal column?

When I was a little girl I spent large chunks of the summer with my grandparents.  One of my favorite memories is sitting on my grandmother’s porch swing with her as she read the afternoon paper (The Dallas Times Herald).  She would usually cut an apple for us, and she would read the comics to me and then read the rest of the news to herself.  It was a time when she rested from her domestic activities and was still.  And I could snuggle up next to her.

I guess in the history of the world, the ways we have gotten news have changed over time and have largely been driven by technology.  Before the printing press was invented, news was transmitted by word of mouth.  Surely that couldn’t have been very reliable.  Newspapers became the primary means of journalism in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Then came radio and television, and now we can transmit news instantly via the Internet.  I was reminded the other day about newsreels that were shown in theaters before the feature film.  My grandmothers both had sons who fought in World War II.  I can imagine them sitting next to the radio or watching those newsreels, hoping for some good news.  Then later we all tuned in to Walter Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley to get the day’s news.  The first time I can remember constant news coverage of an event was when Kennedy was assassinated.  But even then our newspapers were important.  Now we have the 24-hour news cycle and it sometimes drives me crazy.  I really don’t want to see Adam Schiff’s face again!  And is it any more reliable?

I hate to see the demise of the written word.  Even though I get a lot of my news from the Internet, I have to scroll past videos to see something in print.  While I will miss the idea of the daily paper, I’m not sure there is very much reality left to miss.  The Tulsa World has gotten thinner and thinner, with more ads as fillers.  By the time the news is delivered to my door, it is old news.  I have already watched it on television.  And it keeps going up in price.  It just doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on something that often goes straight into the trash.  I realize by cancelling my subscription I am becoming part of the problem, but it just isn’t worth the expense any more.

I would be remiss if I didn’t say a word about the Good News, the Bible. Even though it was written centuries ago, it is still fresh and still relevant. Everything changes, but the Word of God never does. It always gives me just what I need for my day.

“The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” 1 Peter 1: 24b

So goodbye, Tulsa World.  I’m breaking up with you.  Maybe I will change my mind and come back if you are still around, but don’t count on it.  Thanks for all the memories but for now, I will have my morning coffee with the Good News.

HOW DID WE GET HERE SO SOON?

 

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He was arguably the cutest and most popular boy in the ninth grade. He was one of those guys who was the whole package: good-looking, well liked, really nice, popular, athletic, and a real leader. One of the unattainable boys. He only dated the prettiest and most popular girls, because he could.

 

I went to a different school the next year and really haven’t thought much about him since. We were only casual friends and didn’t stay in touch. I heard he married his high school sweetheart, but other than that I never knew what happened in his life. So why was it such a gut check when I heard he passed away last week?

 

I keep thinking of the lines from the John Donne poem, “…any man’s death diminishes me.” Is that it? Of course any man’s death should diminish me. Really, the death of any creature is sad. I was reading in my quiet time this morning about how God cares for the sparrows and how He knows when even one of them falls to the ground. Jerry and I were pondering over our coffee about whether there will be sparrows in Heaven. I hope so. But I don’t think that is really what is troubling me. It’s the last line of the poem that is bothering me, the line about the bell tolling for me. And it’s not bothering me in the way Donne was intending, that when one of us dies a little piece of each of us dies. No, the part that bothers me is that my day is coming, the day when the bell will actually toll for me. And here is the crux of what bothers me. It feels way too soon!

 

It’s not that I am afraid to die, although I expect that if we are honest all of us are at least a little bit afraid. After all this is uncharted territory. We’ve never done it before. But as a Christian I know that when I die I will go immediately to be with Jesus, and I believe my eternal life will be wonderful beyond comprehension. What bothers me is that I have reached an age where death is not shocking. When one of my peers dies, no one says any more, “Oh she was too young to die.” Death is expected or at least accepted as normal for my age group. Where is the “rage against the dying of the light” that Dylan Thomas wrote about in “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.”

 

Here’s the thing. This time of life has gotten here too soon! Ecclestases 3:2 tells us there is a time to be born and a time to die. I know that God’s timing is perfect but I’m not ready to leave this planet yet. The space between birth and where I am now seems so brief. Twenty years used to seem like a long time but now it goes by in the blink of an eye. Today we are celebrating the 11th birthday of a baby girl who was just born yesterday! Those 11 years went by in a whoosh!

 

How is it that my peers are dying off? My ninth grade memories don’t seem that far distant. I still carry a little of my 14-year old self. I don’t feel all that old! It seems that I hear of the death of a classmate almost every week now. We baby boomers are keeping that tolling bell busy, and that seems like an atrocity to me. I, for one, am raging against it! I’m not going gentle into that good night.