In the Bleak Mid-Winter

 

It is midwinter.  The days are short.  It is wet and cold.  Many are rushed about by preparations for the holidays.  Others in what is meant to be a festive season of tidings of good news and joy find being away from friends and family a cause of gloom.  Others are apprehensive of the reunions with ones that they have grown apart from.  It is in short, a “bleak mid-winter” for many.

A very dear sister in Christ wrote to me today and confided in me her depression at this season.  Before continuing, I would like to say that I am not medically trained, nor do I understand all the ins and outs of biochemical responses to situations.  Even my psychological training was limited to family counselling and low level talking therapies.  I can add to that that I am a classic type B personality, and elation and depression are low key in my own life.

That all said, even with this Christmas-tide upon us, and it being the first since Dianne’s passing, I still have no depression.  Yes, the weather and season are dark and drizzly.  Yes, I spend a lot of time physically alone.  But I still have faith in not ever being totally alone.  Jesus said, “I will be with you always,” and I find comfort in that, and my ad hoc conversations with Him are frequent.  I also trust in His promise that Dianne and I are not permanently separated, but we will be reunited in the place Jesus has gone ahead to prepare.

Christina Rossetti’s poem In the Bleak Midwinter reminds us though of the promise of the season.  Despite all of the gloom and social stresses, it is the arrival of Emmanuel which we should cling to.  He came that all concerns could be lifted from us.  He has come to bring us peace.

Some might take exception to such views.  Marx is credited with saying religion, and by implication faith, is the opiate of the masses.  If that is the case, the all I have to say is bring on the spiritual pharmaceuticals!  I want “the peace that exceeds all understanding,” and I wish you find it as well.

 

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Faith!

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mustard seeds

It was a year ago that Dianne posted that her fatigue was beginning to really wear on her.  She wrote: “Fatigue is now so intense i can no longer do the one household job i had stubbornly maintained. I spend most of my time in bed now. I do get dressed every day and still play the piano every day, but that is now it. Makes my days very boring and repetitive.”  Yet through it all – she had faith, and trusted that God, and in His promise that this is not all that there is.   She trusted implicitly in that promise, and her faith grew as her body weakened.  The passage she reflected on and posted alongside the above was Romans 10:9-10:

“Declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

She believed in her heart, and professed with her mouth, keyboard, and pen.  Jesus is Lord.  Dianne trusted in the fact, and she was saved, not only from fatigue and pain, but from sin.  She now has peace beyond all understanding.

Let us hold to the promise as well!

Image may contain: people smiling, one or more people, glasses, close-up and indoor

 

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When the World Consorts – God Answers: Reflections from the Valley of Death

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The Twenty-third Psalm is one of the most familiar passages from the entire Bible.  It speaks of David’s reliance on the care and protection from God, no matter what the circumstances.  It reads:

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.  Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,  and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

It has been a comfort to countless Jews, Christians, and yes indeed others since it was first written.  I remember it as a regular reading in my Boy Scout days as part of morning  devotions.  It is just so full of promise for a coming day.

My wife Dianne held on to this Psalm as well.  The following is one of her posts from just a couple of months before her passing:

“This week has been hard and tiring. Over the weekend i developed an allergic reaction to a new steroid i was trying for pain. I became hyperglaecemic and borderline dehydrated even though i couldnt stop drinking. With blood sugar over 18 points, dizzyness and loss of bowel control things looked to be setting themselves up for a hospital admission. However, we attended an emergency gp appointment at 8.30am and the young locum was a blessing, he reassured us and gave clear guidance so we could monitor from home. After a total of 72 hours awake and feeling agitated and ill, i finally slept. I took the rest of the week to recover slowly, but today i was able to go out for a cup of tea for the first time in about 10 weeks. That made me feel very blessed.  Even in our greatest trials, God is there to aid and bless throughout. ‘Though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil for thou art with me.'”

She had planned of reflecting on this Psalm in her final days, but as the trials and “valleys” worked out she fell into a coma.  I therefore recited and sang it to her (using Kieth Green’s arrangement) as I sat by her bedside.  It was in a very real sense “the valley of death.”  But – The Lord was with her, and with me.  Surely goodness and mercy will continue to follow me all of the days of the rest of my life – for he has been a comfort for me every day so far!

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Heartbroken

Heart, Broken Heart, Love, Valentine, Symbol, Red

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I have had a lot of love and support shown to me by friends and family since Dianne’s passing.  I am loved.  As a person of faith, I am not depressed – after all we knew it was coming, and she was certain as to where she was going.  I too share the hope of heaven.  I am at times still sad and heartbroken at the loss of being able to daily see my wife, lover, and best friend.

A few nights ago, I had one of those “sad times.”  It was late at night and I was alone in the house, and lonely.  As the insomnia kicked in, I penned this somewhere between 2 and 3 AM.

Heartbroken

Heartbroken is a simple phrase

But it shows itself in many ways

The desire to binge or not eat at all

To doze all day – at night stare at walls

The sense of loss too deep to describe

Sometimes so harsh that you can’t abide

Heartbroken is a way you feel

So hard to believe that the situations real

My heart does in loneliness ache

It will just takes time for me it all to intake

 

Padre

The Mightiest of Fortresses

 

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Walls of Jerusalem

“I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,  my shield  and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18: 1-2).”

This brief passage says so much!  God is a focus of our love and affection, but he is so much more.  He is our strength giver (in fact The strong One for us).  He is a rock on which we can find refuge.  A rock or strong physical feature offers sanctuary.  He is a refuge or hiding place in times of trial or trouble.  He is a shield – again a form of defense.  He is the ultimate stronghold.

The world may throw at us what it may, but it is God who is greater!

Dianne saw this.  Her entry for 26 January reads,

“Had a visit from Pastor Vince and Lisa.  Lovely to see them and spend time praying with them.  I appreciate all of my friends who support us and lift me up in prayer. However ill I may become or feel, much as I face the reality that I may die soon, I am constantly aware that my God is able to completely heal me. I live accepting death and [yet] believing for full health.”

She made God her rock and strength.

The Reformer Martin Luther penned these words which are fitting:

A mighty Fortress is our God,
A Bulwark never failing;
Our Helper He amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great,
And, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

 

Let’s take refuge in the mighty fortress today!

Padre

 

The New Day

Sunset, Dawn, Nature, Mountains

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As a new day dawns –

Full of the poetry of life –

My Faith renewed –

My Soul refreshed –

I stop to ponder

All the ways I’m blessed

Opportunities before me

Possibilities to pursue –

Preparing for that dawning

For which I am longing

Where there will be no more night

 

Padre

 

In All Things

Glass, Heart, Window, Shot, Hole, Bullet

Image by Gerhard Litz from Pixabay

My devotional today led me to the Book of Roman’s and the reflection that no matter what the circumstances are that we face, we will not be overcome by them if we remain in faithfulness and love to the Lord.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).”

All things – whether great or small

Be they nice or unpleasant to recall

Things we long for or things we hate

They are all in the end useful, God’s grace to instate

 

When we are saddened and when we are glad

When things make us peaceful or tempt us to be mad

Remember His hand is there in the mix

There is no outcome He cannot fix

 

So my dear brethren remember Paul’s words

To give into despair is really absurd

Cling to our Saviour and no matter how things seem

In the end you’ll be blessed, for in Him you’re redeemed

 

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Spring In The Heart: A Tanka

selective focus photography of white flowers

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

My Aunt Jan lost my Uncle Herbie almost exactly two weeks before I lost my wife, Dianne.  We have corresponded several times over social media since, and we share our common experience of loss and remembrance.  Yesterday she asked how I was doing, to which I replied that I was beginning to build some new routine in my life.  She returned with the comment that she too was finding new routines.  She then noted that it is springtime in Australia, and it is getting warm.  I noted that that was poetic – new routines and spring coinciding.  We then talked of gardens in this context.

New sunshine creeping 
A fresh beginning – face warm
Blossoms reemerge
My heart gladdens in brightness
Life springing from sun drenched earth

 

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Colleen’s 2019 Weekly #Tanka Tuesday #Poetry Challenge No. 147, #Poet’sChoice

 

Garden of Love and the Woman of Faith

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My garden is a special place.  It is a three-fold manifestation of love.  Its development began as a butterfly sanctuary and memorial to our late daughter, Ana.  Lavender and buddleia were planted to draw the little creatures she so loved.  Dianne next, as an act of love to me and being concerned for my heart condition, wanted it further transformed to be low maintenance so I would not be strained.  The idea was then struck upon to make it Moroccan themed and the third act of love that washed over the place was our best friends organising a team to make it a beautiful sanctuary for Dianne in her last days.  A summer house was erected for her to maximise the portion of the year she could spend in it, and it became a place of peace for her.  She spent as much time in it as she could.

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Back in April with her strength ebbing, and symptoms becoming more manifest, she posted:

“Got my most recent blood tests back today, for the first time they are markedly worse. It comes as no real surprise as i have acquired a lot of new symptoms recently, showing i am affected by the liver cancer now.
My liver is now struggling to function, so the initial ‘honeymoon’ is over, and we realise we are counting months.
Still, everything is done which needs to be, so i will just appreciate this lovely weather to come, sitting in my garden.

This quotation sums up my feelings on the situation.

‘We should praise God regardless of good or bad news. If we are His children, it’s always good news because we have eternal life.’ Bill Williams”

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The promise of eternal life, a paradise which Jesus has gone ahead to prepare, is the ultimate garden of peace.  Far greater than Eden from which we fell.  It too like my garden is a place flowing with love.   I rejoice in Dianne’s entry to it.

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Garden Enclosed

 

Autumn’s Promise

Bench, Fall, Park, Rest, Sit, Autumn, Park Bench, Wood

Image by Pepper Mint from Pixabay 

Autumn’s Promise

Wet
Drizzle
Skies Clouded
A Cool Dampness
Bringing Autumn Chill
Leaves Their Green Abating
Golds, Yellows, Reds, They Now Sport
The Winged Flocks Now Journey Southwards
Daily The Light Grows Shorter, Dimmer
Summer Over, Equinox Having Come
But Hope, Nature Still Proffers To Us
This Fading Season Shall Not Last
There Is Promise Of Newness
The Cycle Runs Its Path
Spring Shall Returning
Bring New Greenness,
Warmth, Delight
Fresh Starts
Light

Padre

The Etheree poem consists of ten lines of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 syllables. Etheree can also be reversed and written 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.   A Reversed Etheree Syllable Count: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.  A Double Etheree Syllable Count: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 10, 9, 8, 7, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1

COLLEEN’S 2019 WEEKLY #TANKA TUESDAY #POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 146 #SYNONYMSONLY. This weeks words are: FALL (Here in American usage) & GIVE

I have written this as a seasonal piece with Autumn (Fall) in its annual context, but I intend it also as an allegory of the gloom and despair that can descend (fall) upon us in life.  The “giving” of hope may not always be immediately obvious in the face of such “drizzly” circumstances, but like the coming of Spring, there is hope to come.

Padre