Surreal – reflections on 9/11

via Daily Prompt: Surreal

I remember it well – the phone call I received from my mother on the morning of September 11, 2001.   At first, the conversation was like any other when we wanted to share news with one another.  “You aren’t going to believe this,” she started.  “A plane just hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center.”   Both she and I assumed it to have been a small piper plane whose pilot made a terrible error. In the next few seconds, she began her now-famous, “Oh my stars, oh my stars!” She left me hanging for a few moments while she was digesting what was happening before her eyes.   “What???” I exclaimed, wondering what could possibly have happened.   “There’s another one!”  I learned later that my mother had poured her morning coffee and turned the news on to start her day, and heard the “big news” of the day.  It has just occurred minutes before, but already the Today Show was reporting on it… and, quite literally, while she and I were on the phone the second plane hit the tower, and the whole nation became aware that we were under attack.    Stunned and somewhat in disbelief, I looked around my office quad to see if anyone else had received a phone call from home or was aware what was happening.  No one was.   For a few moments, it seemed I was the only one in my office who understood the gravity of what was happening.  Slowly, other people in my office received phone calls from loved ones, telling them to turn on the news, and began comparing notes on the details we knew.

We gathered in a conference room equipped with a television to understand the situation.  Overwhelmed by the sight of what was happening before my eyes, I felt as if i were watching the scene from behind a movie screen.  I somehow felt disconnected.  It was all so surreal that I thought it couldn’t possibly be happening.   Yet there i was, along with the rest of our beloved nation, in the midst of unprecedented chaos.

Over the next few hours and days, we saw horrible visions of people jumping out of windows to their certain death.  In the first few days and weeks after the attack, our nation turned to God for answers.   Churches left their doors open just so that people could come in and pray. Companies changed their advertising signs to ask for prayer. For a moment, it seemed as if our country was coming together as one, both to console each other as well as form a unified message to our enemies that we would not be broken. For a moment, we put aside our differences, our political views, our party affiliations, our religious opinions, and came together as One Nation Under God to humbly ask for help and healing.

As time wore on, we evolved into the “new norm.”   Although wars continue to be fought, and citizens continue to lose their lives for the cause, it seemed complacency replaced compassion. Slowly we returned to focus on our differences, our political views, our party affiliations, our religious opinions, divided for our own agendas. For all practices, it seems as if the world goes on….until I visited the Ground Zero memorial during a mission’s trip to New York City this past summer. As I walked down the road toward the memorial, I was overwhelmed by a flood of emotions, remembering the pictures I had seen from the day that brought such a significant change in our nations’ history.   Vivid images resurfaced from deep in my memory of people running down the streets of New York covered in ashes from the devastation that once was a symbol of strength in our country. While I thought the original experience sixteen years ago was surreal, I underestimated the emotions of being in the presence of the place in the midst of the people who had personally experienced unthinkable evil. Solemnly, my fingers traced the names on the wall, recognizing families who lost multiple people simultaneously.   Though I knew none of the victims personally, I felt, in a strange way, that we were connected.

IMG_0407

In fact, we are connected, one with another. As co-members of humanity, we are sewn together with a thread that connects our souls to one another. Indeed, we emerged from the ashes of that horrible morning, however we are splintered. With all the compassion of the world, I long for a time when, without tragedy, we would recognize the connection we have to one another and be able to set aside our differences in favor of loving support and encouragement to one another.

Advertisements

Identity Crisis

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1640020686

Who is the person behind the mask?

The reticent smile shadowed by fake happiness.

The person you want me to see, not the person you really are

Beauty and success on the outside, emptiness and bitterness inside

You wear the mask well, but I can tell, because I, too, cover my ugliness

Afraid of what they’d think if they saw your scars, You paint a smile and play the part

You think you know, but you’re not fooling me, it’s easy to tell because I can see

We’re all hiding behind the mask that covers our vulnerabilities

But the One who made us knows what made you you and made me me

We can’t hide forever

God’s Voice Amidst the Noise

Over the past few weeks, as I’m working through the process of publishing my first book (which, by the way, I’m hoping to be released by Christmas time), I find myself asking “how do I hear God’s voice above all the other voices telling me what to do?” One friend sent me a link to a series by Andy Womack, which I thought was fantastic.   However, what happened yesterday was unmistakably the hand of God. We had a guest speaker in our Church today, and guess what his message was about?   You guessed it!  HOW TO HEAR GOD’s VOICE.

His message was simple yet deep. I want to share some highlights.  These are not my words, but words that moved me deeply that I want to pass on so others may be moved as well

1. confess your sins.   The sin we have in our lives becomes a barrier between us and God.

2 pursue intimacy with God    You can’t hear his voice if you don’t spend time with him.

3 practice hearing Him.  If you think you might have heard something through a feeling or an impression, write it down and check it against scripture.  He will never be inconsistent.

4. Obey Him.  When you hear his unmistakable voice obey Him.

As I thought about his words I recalled one time in particular, sitting on a bench watching my daughter play at the playground.  A woman was talking on her cell phone, visibly shaken and upset, talking to what seemed to be a friend about her husband.   I wasn’t particularly listening to the conversation, but i could tell by the way the woman acted that she was terribly upset.   I felt this “voice” inside me say something to the effect of, “tell her about me”.    I remember thinking that it was awkward; that she would think I had been eavesdropping and think I was crazy.  So I did nothing but sat there for a moment thinking about it.   Just then her phone rang again and she answered and walked away.  I had missed the opportunity because I didn’t seize the moment and I didn’t obey Gods voice.    I vowed never again to knowingly miss an opportunity to share the gospel, no matter how “strange” the opportunity seems.   

Practice listening.  Just like anything else, practice makes perfect.  I pray you hear His voice today.  

Blessings,

SB

Copyright 2017 – Journey For Life.  All Rights Reserved

Out of the ashes

She slowly emerges, not fully sure that she’s made it.  She looked around and realizes that she’s still alive.   At first it surprises her, but then she begins to accept it.   Trembling, she stumbles to get her feet underneath her and take her first steps.  It’s awkward, like a baby deer, but after the first step it two, the exhilaration of survival kicks in and she builds momentum. With every step a new confidence emerges as she sheds the old self.   “I am no longer a victim”, she thinks to herself.   “I am a victor”.    Grateful to those who believed in her when she couldn’t believe in herself, and grateful to her God, who gave her purpose, she now accelerates toward the win, confident that she is fulfilling His (and her) purpose in life.    She is victorious.   

But I Don’t Wanna!

Our obstacles are different – it could be a physical obstacle, an emotional obstacle ; an educational obstacle like a test or something; but we all have them.

IMG_2623

Ever face an obstacle in life that you just didn’t want to go through?   Where you felt absolutely paralyzed to move in any direction, let alone forward?    I had one of those days this week.    So what did I do to escape?   I hopped on a bike at the gym and just rode miles.   And miles… and miles (kind of like Forrest Gump!)  There was a time when biking wouldn’t necessarily have been my first choice…. And there are still many of  things that I do to escape…  like just crawling into myself and just playing the piano, or working on some sort of Craigs’ List project – or something that I don’t have to put actual thought into, but can do relatively mindlessly while I wallow in self-pity.   It is good to have ways to escape.   But the reality is that sometimes we JUST HAVE TO MOVE FORWARD.    As much as we’d like to just sit down and pretend the world around us is not happening.     But how do we do that?

wall

What do I do when I really just don’t want to face it?

When I left for the gym that day after a whirlwind sort of morning dropped some things in my lap that I honestly just didn’t want to face, I had an overwhelming sense that I just needed to hear the voice of God. It was a craving for His voice to comfort me and tell me everything was going to be ok.    I can remember when I was a young teenager, home on summer break.  My mom set the expectation that I was to call her every morning when I woke up (because, of course, she left before I woke up).   I remember that the sound of her voice answer the phone was comforting.   Years later, after I was married, I recall feeling that sense of comfort when I called mom and just heard her voice.  Somehow on that morning, I craved the comfort that only my Heavenly father could give.     I have a Bible app on my phone that I use regularly to read scripture… but I just wanted to HEAR scripture today.    I’m not sure why I hadn’t done this before, but I downloaded the BIBLE onto Audible. I really wanted to listen to Psalms, but the app downloaded the Bible in many “parts” (not by book or chapter), so I couldn’t necessarily tell which “part” was psalm, and they were still in process of downloading all 83 hours and 13 minutes of the complete New International Version of the Audio Bible.  So Joshua 19 it was.   The good news is that the narrator has an English accent, so it was kind of cool hearing him read scripture.    Somehow I think God orchestrates far more in our lives than we ever realize, and I believe this event was no exception.  Although the specific text of Joshua I was hearing was actually pretty dry (it was on the division of the land to the Israelites), my mind began to wander to the verse in Jeremiah (29:11) that is my life-verse.  This is a verse that I heard explicitly in my early 20’s from a close family friend who is a pastor: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, Plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future”   It goes on to say, “then you will call on me and come to pray to me, and I will listen to you”.  It was a reassurance to me that, even though I may face obstacles I don’t necessary want to, God has an ultimate plan for my life.

That evening, I dug out a few verses that I thought were appropriate for when we are facing unpleasant things. As I thought about it, and started searching for scripture that might give me an answer, I realized this was exactly what Jesus felt like when preparing to go to the cross. In the garden of Gethsemane, when He said (Luke 22:42-44, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done. An angel from Heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”.  I bolded a sentence above – one that I had never even noticed before today.    Even Jesus needed support – and the angel was there to strengthen him.   And the angel was right there to support Him!  The interesting thing about this passage is that Jesus felt exactly like I did on that day – He had to face something he really didn’t want to have to do – and He even asked God to take it on so that He didn’t have to do it.  We all know how that ended, right?  He DID have to go through that which he didn’t want to…    and so do we sometimes.

Our obstacles are different – it could be a physical obstacle; or an emotional obstacle; an educational obstacle like a test or something, or to have to break bad news to someone; but we all have them. In those “obstacle moments”, I relish in the fact that I know I have a God that has a plan for my life – and know that He will strengthen me just when I need it.   I am so thankful for the encouragement that you all have given to me along my journey – and I pray that I can be encouragement back to you to keep going when you don’t feel like it.

Ascend

img_7360

Ascend

Out of the pit of despair, I begin the slow ascension toward the light.  I realize now I cannot do it on my own.  No, I’ve tried that already.  Tried and failed.  Over and over again.  In the past, I thought the best way to demonstrate my courage was to boldly climb, hoping that others would follow.  On my own, I was able to overcome obstacles and actually climbed quite high at times, only to find myself falling down, back in the pit of despair.    No, I cannot make it on my own.   I need someone to guide me, to encourage me when I’m tired and feel like I cannot climb anymore.  On this climb, I realize I need God, and his words ring true:  from Psalm 40: 1 I waited patiently for the Lord;he turned to me and heard my cry.2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,out of the mud and mire;he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.

Psalms 40:1-3 NIV

No, I think I can only ascend on the wings of God, for it is through Him alone that I find the strength to continue the climb.