People have a genuine desire to know God and grow in their faith journey. Although there are very few public comments written at the end of any blog post, I am amazed at the personal e-mails I receive, as well as the private messages sent to me on social media. Some of these are from complete strangers. They only saw my post because the friend of a friend of a friend had sent the link to them because of the particular content. Their personal questions or prayer requests allow us to delve a little deeper into their unique situation. It is sometimes appreciated by the reader to have an objective (hopefully) outsider to bounce things off of when going through a rough patch.
There is a lot of pain and hurt being felt by a multitude of people. Folks are looking for hope. I was clearly reminded of that this week after my last post on getting a participation trophy. Apparently, I am not the only one who has felt like giving up a time or two in life. In just the three days since that was posted, nearly seven thousand page views have occurred on this website.
I heard from a few people facing upcoming surgeries. Their prayer requests are welcome. I pray for them, their family members and loved ones, their doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, aides, and anyone else involved in their care.
A couple of people in physical therapy going through rehab after a fall or after a stroke expressed their frustration at the lack of progress they were making in their healing journey. I understand that the slow process of healing can test one's patience and perseverance. I have been there and know the feeling all too well. My prayers are lifted up for them as well.
Intercessory prayer is a vital part of my ministry and outreach. If you ever have a particular intention that you would like me to keep in mind, please let me know. (Send request to firstname.lastname@example.org.) I firmly believe in the power of prayer. I also believe there is a great spiritual awakening that takes places when we ask God for an outpouring of grace, mercy, and healing in our lives and in the lives of those for whom we are interceding. Look at what happened in the biblical story of those individuals who lowered the paralytic through the roof. Were they all changed by the experience, or just the one healed of the physical infirmity? (Read Luke 5:17--39. I invite you to spend some extra time with just verse 26 in that passage.)
There is a lot of good in the world. I get an occasional troll on these pages who tries to save me from eternal damnation. Others have encouraged me to open a link that will show me "a good time" so I can really live. However, most people with whom I interact through this site are sincere and positive people trying to live a good and holy life. That fills me with great hope.
Those are just a few of the consistent insights I have observed since I began this endeavor.
The picture (above) was taken this morning just outside my home. I used the title for this blog because I am not accustomed to seeing leaves change colors in December. In Colorado and Wyoming it came much earlier than that--late September or early October. Even in Missouri peak season for fall colors would be somewhere around the third week of October. The seasons depend upon the geographic location and the weather conditions.
In our lives, the seasons of suffering will be different for each of us. We may assume that it is predominantly the elderly that experience the bulk of suffering. However, that is not always the case. While many of the elderly will have significant health problems as they age, I have seen some stay healthy pretty much until the end of their lives. On the other hand, we do not have "children's hospitals" all across the nation just because only the elderly get sick. Sadly, suffering can enter our lives at any time. How do we respond when that season enters our life?
Let us also remember that suffering can come in many forms--not just physical illness. Broken relationships are a huge source of suffering for many people. How do you bounce back when a sacred trust has been violated?
People living in poverty struggle each day to survive. The ripple effect in these circumstances can generate suffering in a variety of ways--poor nutrition, substandard educational opportunities, unemployment or underemployment, lack of good hygiene and health care, etc.
One question I have received many times through the years is straightforward, "How do you stay POSITVE when life hurts so much?" There is no easy answer to that question. It will be a roller-coaster ride sometimes. As I told a hospital chaplain many years ago, "Sometimes I don't need a cheerleader. Sometimes I just need someone to sit here and cry with me."
I endured the suffering a minute at a time when the pain was excruciating. It has been 32 years since I went through chemotherapy treatments, but I still remember how bad it was. I am POSITIVE that it was an awful segment of life. Being POSITIVE that something good came from it only arrived years later. Life teaches us lessons. Some are learned slowly, and in my case, grudgingly.
In closing, I want to encourage you to build up the people around you. We do not always know the circumstances in someone's life. I have known people who have had chronic pain for years, but it never showed in their appearance or demeanor. (Yes, I know that there are others who will let you know if they chip a fingernail.) People going through traumatic experiences in the home may keep it hidden for years. Our society has trained us well to cover up our emotions and put on a good face. That does not always serve us well.
Bottom line--we each have a story. I don't know your complete story and you don't know mine. Can we simply agree to just do our utmost to bring out the best in one another?
On this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, may we each be filled with courage and perseverance to give our resounding "YES" to the Lord just as Mary did. Have a blessed Second Week of Advent!