Monday, November 22, 2010

Relative pain

It's freezing outside.  The sky's been winter white all day and the snow that fell Friday is crunchy underfoot. And here in the usually merely rainy Pacific Northwest, the roadways are full of people who don't have a blasted idea of how to drive in such conditions.  Some drive at a snail's pace.  Others speed along and wind up in ditches before before they've gone a single mile. By the end of the winter, they'll do well enough but today it was ugly out there.  As we sit in our family room this evening, bundled up against the drafts (I'm pretty sure I can see my breath...we really should turn up the thermostat at least for a while in this house!), I can hear the wind whipping around the carport.  Beve went over to the retirement complex where the power has gone out twice today.  When he got there, they had candles lit all over their over-stuffed apartment.  So he raced out to buy them a lantern.  The idea of Grampie and Thyrza at large in the world with a pile of candles is worrisome indeed.  I just listened to a message from Grampie (on his cell-phone). He called to say they got the flowers for Thanksgiving, "by way of Obama," he said.  I haven't the faintest idea of what that means.

I get to feeling at times that we have a lot on our plates.  What with Grampie and Thyrza, and their needs.  J and his daily trips to the doctor.  This morning I noticed what looked like a bit of strawberry jam between Jackson's shoulder blades, but when I tried to wipe it off, noticed it was a large raw, red welt.  About two seconds after I discovered that, sister, RE, called, and boy, did she get an earful.  "Now the dog?" On top of everything else, now we have to take the dang dog to the vet.

But this afternoon I dove back into the Bonhoeffer biography I've been reading.  And had one of those moments just how ridiculous I've been.  Suffering?  Me?  Not even close.  I'm a happily-married, well-educated, middle-class woman with three great kids in a country where I am free to worship, believe, speak, act as I choose.  Free to be a citizen of heaven first, last and always, with no reprisal.  And I take this for granted.  We all do. That we can join churches, leave them, form our own or not--this, too, is a freedom we take for granted.  Our government isn't telling us what we must believe.  And through-out history, starting with the first disciples, governments have always tried to do that very thing.  In fact, many rulers (from caesars to hitlers) have turned on its head the words of Jesus, and wanted for themselves the adulation which belongs only to Him.  And when that has happened--time after time after time--there is always a faithful remnant, the chosen few, who stand up against it, who say, "I will not bow to anyone but God."  These are the ones God considers worthy to suffer for His name.  And it is a worthiness I haven't the faintest idea about in my plush, easy life where belief is so easy.

Paul knows, though.  "I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Philippians 1: 20-21

I don't know that I could honestly write such words from within a prison.  I kind of think I'd be screaming, "GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!!!"  These words of Paul, however, are the best possible sense. Though I pray I'm never faced with prison, I can say--with alacrity!--when I consider the relatively small (in comparison, anyway) pain I live with, I pray "that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body."  And yes, whether by life or by death.

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