Loss and Hope

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Why do so many grieve over an ancient building being partially destroyed by fire. A building which survived world wars and political upheavals for centuries…not to mention the structure took over two centuries to complete!

Because it is Art.

Because it represents people…a nation…a world view.

Not all will mourn because of faith or political reasons which saddens me.

I am a Christian, but had this been The Dome of the Rock or some other significant religious building, I would still be sad due to the destruction.

Man creates, but he copies God’s plans. After all, it is He who gave the mind to man.

Not only the mind, but the heart, the drive, and the penetrating zeal to create.

Notre Dame was one of these creations. There are so many more.

I have not been to Paris, but have seen the replica of this great edifice in Montreal, Canada. From the exterior, the two look remarkably alike. The interiors differ.

Unfortunately, less than a year ago, a virus wiped away well over a thousand photos of which one folder contained images of Montreal’s Notre Dame. I have the memory, of course. As the French say, “C’est la vie”.

Below is the interior of the alter area of the Montreal structure. I copied it to another file.

So, to my French friends, I say ” Adieu”.  The building will be restored, as I hope so will your faith.

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DSC00738Whenever I think about St. Patrick’s Day, my mind immediately goes to an old friend of mine. His name is Mark Manning…Irish through and through. My friend in not physically with us anymore. He left us almost three years ago. It doesn’t seem that it’s been that long, though.

Occasionally, we are blessed to cross paths with a truly remarkable person. Mark was this and so much more. I could easily lavish a plethora of positive adjectives concerning this unique and gifted man. However, I will share only a couple of his most endearing qualities. I almost failed to mention that Mark was a quadriplegic, an accomplished artist, history teacher, and faithful servant of Christ.

Mark entered my life, or I should say we crossed paths, while attending the same church many years ago. One of my fondest memories is when he invited me and Cheryl to attend his family’s St. Patrick’s Day gathering. This was an honor, and a rather large gathering, too. The Manning clan is numerous and knows how to throw a good St. Pats party! Mark’s brothers, sisters and mom are the most welcoming group of people I have come across. Mark stood out among them all. He engaged us from the moment he noticed we were at the clubhouse. He made us feel comfortable, and talked to us like we were old friends. Not many people have this ability.

One of the qualities I want to share about Mark was his unassuming, and humble personality. Although he sat in a wheelchair, he was the tallest person everywhere he went. He reached out to others and made them feel special. He always asked how one was getting along in life, and he meant it. He would encourage. He would teach without you even knowing it. He would point you in the right direction, and encourage you. I never walked away from spending time with Mark saddened because he was crippled physically. Instead, I always left him a better person than when I greeted him. Amazing how he had that effect on everyone.

Mark was an inspiration. He accomplished more than most, and without the use of his legs and only with very little function of his arms and hands. As I mentioned, he was an excellent artist who used the medium of watercolors to express his inward poetry. Mark created an annual  community outdoor art exhibit which was sponsored by his city and local businesses, and which received much recognition. He majored in art history and shared his passion with others. He became a Christian and was responsible for leading his family and many friends to the Source of his strength.

For those of you who know the difficulties of paralysis, Mark handled this disability with strength and grace. He was forced to rely upon the aid of others to perform even the most mundane personal tasks, yet he  maintained his dignity. Finding reliable and good care was always a challenge, but he never complained about that. In fact, I don’t ever recall Mark complaining about anything! Being around him was refreshing.

Mark was a great listener, and offered wise counsel, but not too much of it. He was insightful and could be firm when necessary, but was gentle by choice. I miss him. I miss his smiling face and kindness. I miss his advice. I miss our fellowship. However, I don’t miss his physical handicap, and am so looking forward to seeing my friend run and jump and walk when I reach my final destination. I am confident that Mark will be among many who will greet me. What a day that will be!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Mark.


Rocks Standing The Test of Time & Water


As a student of history I find the Second World War fascinating. Tragic, of course, but irresistible to study. I wish it, and all wars, were foreign concepts to us. However, I cannot ignore the reality of this conflict where man was at his best and worst during those times of monumental struggles. While studying the early stages of both the European and Pacific theaters of war, history tells us that the forces of evil overwhelmed their opponents. It took considerable time and effort for balance to be achieved and the proportion of defeats to become victories for the allies.

I pondered the sense and reality of being overwhelmed and what it must have felt like for both sides. What comes to mind when you consider this word, overwhelmed ? It is a very powerful word with many intense thoughts and feelings associated with it.

For the athlete, watching one team dominate another team; one boxer pummel another boxer; or one individual rule her opponent, can evoke a sense of helplessness for the defeated and energy for the winner. Whether the victor or the vanquished, the concept of being overwhelmed is very real for both parties.

For the over-worked, the seemingly endless days of pressure, deadlines and fatigue – the feeling that you will never catch-up – may simply wear you down. The thought of “Not again” and the reality of added responsibilities can lead to stress and disillusionment.

For mothers of young children, the daily routine and pressures associated with caring for her children, managing the household, balancing the budget, the endless trips to stores and events and appointments can certainly lead to exhaustion and feelings of futility.

For the over-extended; be it financial, time-related or with relationships, depression can result.

And for those who have endured years of chronic pain, without the hope for a cure, life can seem pretty pointless. Some suffer from the acute pain of losing a loved one with the hurting as real as any physical pain can be, and lasting just as long or longer. Then there are those who care for others who cannot care for themselves. These are special people, but the responsibility can become unbearable at times.

The sense of being overwhelmed is, well, overwhelming. This feeling may seem relentless – like powerful waves crashing on to a rocky shoreline, wearing away the stone, one resounding crash after another.

Our inherent “fight or flight” reaction to adverse (threatening) situations, especially over prolonged periods of time with little or no hope of relief, often results in our wanting to flee the situation. When trying to stand against the onslaught of a hurricane, escape often seems like the best choice. However, impulsive fleeing can lead to harmful behaviors and drastic consequences. As we struggle to understand what is happening to us, we become confused and lose objectivity.

The sense of being overwhelmed can cause physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual damage. Because of the feelings of confusion and hopelessness, we often attempt to medicate our symptoms. There are a variety of ways to do this; most of which harm not only ourselves, but those closest to us. What are we to do? How can we gain the upper hand and triumph over such adversity without turning to those things which ultimately end up hurting us?

My recommendation, based on personal experience, is to begin the journey towards safety, healing and wholeness by expressing our vulnerability to God. This step is difficult for most of us because it is an admission of weakness and reveals our inability to overcome adversity in our own strength. But this is exactly where God wants us. We must empty ourselves of pride and the false sense of self-sufficiency in order for Him to fill us with His power and His peace.

David, the shepherd boy-turned-king, expressed regularly his vulnerability and fears to the Lord through the Psalms. David, far from perfect, was highly favored by God because of his heart condition. Even after sinning, he returned to his God time and time again in an attitude of submission and humility. David learned to trust his Maker through repeated situations when his life was in jeopardy; as he confessed his inability to overcome his foe, he sought after God’s divine intervention. So must we.

In Psalm 61, David begins, “Hear my cry O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed.” He then asks God to “lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.” David goes on to say, “For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” If you can’t relate to walled cities with fortified rock towers then consider a different image which serves the same purpose of protection and safety…an impenetrable place where the enemy can’t reach you.

Whatever your foe is at this present time, confess it, and your powerlessness to overcome it. Tell God the Father, who knows you and your circumstances intimately, that you need Him. Ask Him to help you, protect you, and to be near you. Call out to Him and ask Him to lead you to Christ the Lord. As you affirm Christ as the true Lord of your life, the sense of feeling overwhelmed will begin to dissipate. Sometimes the heaviness leaves immediately, and sometimes it takes awhile, but don’t give up.

Adjustments in lifestyle and circumstances will need to be made to reduce or eliminate the causes of your life feeling out of control, but one must be rescued before one can be free! As balance returns to your life, meditate on the words of David spoken in Psalm 62 when he said, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my Rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”

May that become our proclamation and our reality.