Monday, December 30, 2013

A Puppy, Psalm 42, and Questioning God

What do those three things in the title have to do with each other? Believe me, I did not know either.... until I finished this post.

The year 2013 has been hard. Strange. Full of hard news, pain, suffering. Some of the year has been just plain bad. God and I have struggled a lot through this year.

But, today, this next-to-last day of 2013, for me, was just strange. All the way through.

 Without planning to do so, I spent my first hour out of bed in gown, slippers, and robe sipping hot coffee and searching Scripture. For…what?  Hope? Help? Strength? Understanding? It was under the guise of following links on Facebook to find MY scripture verse for the new year. Of course, like Advil, if one is good, then several verses (in my humble opinion) will work faster, more thoroughly.

When the Notes page on my iPad was full, I stopped. With MUCH to ponder but having no idea what Psalm 42 had to do with anything, I left the table and went into my day.

Fortunately, before #1 son dropped by to take the garbage barrel to the road for us, I had dressed and accomplished odds and ends of chores. The day was strangely disguised with outward markings of a normal, busy, productive day.

I opened the garage and son grabbed the garbage barrel. He said, “Is this a new dog?”

I said, “Never saw it before,” and promptly closed the garage. On our rural road, we get strays and drop-offs now and then.

Weekly garbage disposed of, I firmly set my attention to urgent end of year bookkeeping. My senior care receiver and beloved husband of some dozen years, has recently given up trying to hold a pen to write checks and do all the dozens of other things financial he always handled. Simple tasks, each. But all involving numbers. His number one strength and my number one nemesis. Each bookkeeping task required the use of his arthritic hand, thumb, wrist, and grip.

To ease the traumatic change for him, I involve him in all our money activities. After all, he is not totally convinced I am capable. The fact that I ran a long time successful business and survived for some 65 years before he blessed me with his love means little…. he was the numbers guy, I was the word lady. And it worked for us. But I love and respect him, so, I ask questions, seek guidance, and question all things numbers.

My grown, disabled daughter makes her home with us and lends joy and delight to our days. As is our custom when leaving her at home, we ensured all was well with her, that the doors were secured, and her phone was handy. We headed into a cold, blustery day to take last minute checks to the United States Post Office.

Of course, as I backed out of the garage, the puppy still silently held court on our driveway. It looked at me with begging eyes. I stopped.
Honey said, “No, we can’t.”

I said, “But…”

He said, “Ava. Gracie. Our rescues are done.”

I said, “It’s cold and looks so hungry.”

He looked at his watch. I snapped a few pictures.

 When we returned home from our errands, the puppy was still on the driveway. Sweetheart said, “We can’t.”

I quickly downloaded the pictures I had snapped earlier and posted on two different Face Book pages. Please; lost puppy; help me find its home; I can’t keep it.

One friend posted that a pack of several dogs had been at their home the day before. We had also seen the same dogs but without this little one. Questions poured in. I assured everyone that if no one claimed the puppy by tomorrow I would of course contact our local animal control. One person informed me that I should AT LEAST take it to the animal shelter. I responded that I had done that many times in the past when I was NOT 76 years old. When the comments said I was cruel and mean, I shut that post down. And cried.

Real and very hot tears.

 I assumed I was upset to be judged. I blew my nose. “I thought it no longer mattered what strangers thought of me.” I pondered on that but the tears came again.

 The drier buzzer screamed at me to remove the dry clothes which meant it was time to start another load of wash. Then, Dear Heart asked if I was coming in for the UT football bowl game. I dried my tears again, built a fire in the fireplace, and made snacks.

When dinner and the dishes were done, I surfed the web (UT was not having a not good night so I was not on the edge of my recliner). Why did I follow the link I stumbled onto? Why did I begin reading? Why did I read the whole post and all the comments?

 I did not know.

 But, my heart hurt. My soul ached. Fresh tears fell.

 And yet will I praise Him.

Young people posted. Young families. Young adults. Voicing disgust, disappointment, even anger at “the church.” At Christianity. Some of them at God. Some at Jesus. Some against just the hypocrites in church or the lies they believe to be in the Bible.

The writers were actually respectful, courteous, knowing they might be judged. But they were sad. Empty. Even lonely.

 I had no words, no answers, I knew not how to help.

 I am horrified that I may have been a hypocrite to some of them. Especially since I had once walked in their shoes. I had felt the stabs and had lived through the horrifying doubts and fears and failures. My own sins and those of church members who were in my own path had damaged me…. almost fatally.

I remember, in wide-screen color, living through those black times of my own.

 I remember, as well, the brilliance of the blue sky the day I KNEW, again and for always, that Jesus was real and alive and part of my very being.

 And today, I am one of the lonely Christians. Oh, don’t misunderstand. I am surrounded by sweet and faithful friends who nurture me, pray for and with me, encourage me, and force me out of my care-giver days to go to lunch.

…..I.Am.Lonely.For.Worship. For communion. For mixing and mingling and sharing and BEING with the Body of Believers. I am lonely to hear blessings from other sinful, stubborn, flawed humans who love Jesus. Who know that He lives. Who keep on going even through the muck and mire and mud and floods and droughts.

I am hungry to taste the bread and the wine and to hear the ancient words of that sweet liturgy declaring my sins are forgiven and that the Son of God loves ME.

 Young people, please: forgive me when I offended you, when I turned you off, when I did not hear, when I let you down.

Church, pay attention to these valuable, wonderful, amazing, wounded who desperately need you.

 I earnestly pray that all of us will read and pray and ponder and yes PANT Psalm 42. (printed here from the NIV)

 As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One[d]
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.
For I will yet praise him.
I pray that all of you will taste the sweet, abundant blessings from our God and King in 2014.