If one were to describe the news cyle of the past few weeks, it would be that it is doom and gloom on steroids’. Fear of the invisible, fear of getting too close, fear of going outside, fear of breathing, fear of touching, fear of work, fear of not working, to fear of fearing fear, has filled the headlines for the past few months as through the news we live and breath the pandemic.
Locked away inside of the same four walls, wondering when and if life will ever get back to normal, it sometimes seems like life has been permanently put on pause. Bombarded day after day with words and images of fear, filled with worry about what bad news tomorrow might bring, and how close to the brink of financial disaster we might come, it is easy to forget the little pleasure that life once held, and to think that sorrow and worry will forevermore be our unenviable lot. To believe that the pandemic has forever wiped away hope and joy from our hearts. Deprived of the warmth of gathering together with our loved ones, of sharing time with our best friends, and the simple comfort of an encouraging hug, it is easy for fear to caste its devastating shadow and take over our weary hearts.
In this hour of unprecedented trial, it is tempting to think that God has left us to suffer on our own. That He has abandoned us to be consumed by the contagion, bankruptcy, hunger, and fear. Yet in His word God promises that
For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. Isaiah 41:13
Promising us that no matter what, He is there, holding our hands in the hour of trial, and helping us to safely make it through the hour of trial.
In the book of Psalms He gives us the encouraging promise,
The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. Psalms 34:7
telling us that in our time of need, He will send His angel to stand guard over us, and shield us. Protecting us from any needless sorrow or woe. Allowing only the hardships and trials, that with His aid, will remove the dross from our characters and transform us into jewels fit for the heavenly kingdom.
And while it is not easy to endure the refiners purifying touch, we can take comfort in knowing that like Job, there is a hedge about us protecting us from many unseen arrows. And set our hearts firm in the promise that although unseen, as we walk through the treacherous valley of death, we can take courage knowing God is by our side, holding our hand as He promised. And like the Paslmist we can declare
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Psalms 23:4
And one day soon, when we victoriously come out the other side of this depressing valley, we can fill the heaven’s with God’s praises. Our faith stronger, our hope brighter for the realization that God’s promise is true. And if it is true that He will hold our right hand in our hour of need, then His promise that one day He will come again,
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John14:1-3
and bring us to live with Him must also be true. And then what joy, what rapturous joy will fill our hearts, as with great longing will look forward to the day when the heaven’s are filled with His glory, and our best friend, our brother in sorrow, and our glorious Redeemer, comes to rescue us from this world of pain, to bring us home to live with Him in a land where death, sickness, and sorrow are unknown!
Long ago in a barn hewn out of rocks a young mother gave birth. There was no doctor or scurrying nurses to attend to her. Only her husband, a carpenter by trade. When here little child was born, there was no soft and warm cradle to lay Him in only a manger full of hay.
To human eyes and hearts it seemed to be the birth of another poor child in an already crowded world. Yet, unseen by any human eye, thousands upon thousands of angels waited breathlessly for this humble birth. Then all heaven rang with glorious songs of praise as the baby boy was gently laid in the pale mother’s arms.
With the tender awe of every new mother, she counted His tiny toes and fingers. Quietly she whispered His name as she laid her precious bundle in a manger to sleep. As the young mother and her husband watched the precious infant sleep, angels kept careful guard. Their hearts filled with awesome wonder of their adored leader who willingly had lowered Himself. Who had left a perfect world, the beauty of never dying flowering meadows, majestic forest, choirs raised in perfect chords, and the glorious throne where He sat next to the Father as countless perfect beings worshiped Him with solemn joy.
That He would leave it all to come to a world laden with sin. A place so dark and dreary full of misery, hate, and death. That He would leave it all to become a lowly human baby, and grow into a man well accustomed with sorrow. Someday to hang on a cross for a race of people who had forfeited the right to life so they might have a way to live.
Love, praise, and adoration filled their hearts as they watched their sleeping King. A little baby sleeping peacefully in a smelly manger as the new parents looked on. Just another baby in an over crowded world, or was He?
Only three months into the new year and 2019 has proved to be a hard year of trial and change.2018 had ended with an ominous tone as the last few weeks of the year saw me lose SSI as well as Medicaid, just as an injury put me in a wheel chair and I was hit by two infections in one month. The stress and fear was intense for me and my family as for the first time in years, we started the new year with the intense worry about how we would pay our bills and the fear of my living life as a chronic invalid with no medical care.
But those fears were quickly put on the back burner as one family member after another was hit by health issues. With one member being transferred from an assisted living facility to a nursing home due to a fall only weeks after moving in, meanwhile another was going blind. Before we could even process that news we learned that another relative was in need of surgery and had been unable to work for weeks due to a major infection that had required a pick line to be inserted so he could give himself antibiotics 3 times a day. At the same time we learned that one of my young cousins, barely in her twenties, was at times having to use a wheelchair due thanks to several health issues including Lyme disease. But worse of all, even though none of us wanted to say it, it was becoming clear that my Grandmother’s health was slipping and that her days are in the process of drawing to a close.
Everywhere I turned it seemed like the health and independence of those I love was under attack. And my heart ached as I thought of how quickly life could change. And what a season of change it was as on top of everyone being hit by a sever case of bronchitis that put my Mother in the hospital for a week, we received the news that my sister was now a diabetic. Having lost both of my Grandfather’s and several relatives to that fearful disease, it was very disheartening news to know that I know must worry that my sister had been hit by this cruel ailment so young.
My one hope was that after being hit with so many trials in such a short time, the worst of the year must at last be behind us. And I was hopeful that the rest of the year would now prove a time of joy. On this note I turned my attention to my nearing birthday. While the thrill of getting a year old is not what it used to be when I was 9 or 10, I was looking forward to spending a relaxing day with my family playing games and enjoying a day of planned meals that would give me one day off from the seemingly endless misery of combing through my long allergy list to determine what I would eat.
My birthday started on a good note, as for the first time in years at least one meal had successfully been prepared in advance and I was strangely feeling good. While my Mother made my birthday cake, I dreamed of a lazy afternoon playing board games and watching some of our favorite You Tube programs. Lunch was delicious. The homemade collard green lasagna was the perfect treat. But a few bites in a strange feeling began to take hold and by the time I took my first bite of birthday cake an all to familiar feeling of nausea was taking hold. I had not even finished my cake when the feeling became so strong that my shivering form had to pace the floor.
In sorrow my family turned to me, knowing that my day was ruined. Their hearts went out to me as I paced the floor as calmly as I could manage, hoping the increasingly intense misery would soon fade. Unfortunately matters quickly became worse as a strange flushed feeling rose from my chest and the room disappeared. Suspicious of the cause I pulled out my blood pressure cuff to reveal that my pulse was racing at 159 beats per minute.
I quickly took a pill for my heart, and hoped that relief would soon come. Minutes passed and the misery continued to increase. Fearful of where the misery was heading I quietly grabbed my pocket book intending to place it on the table on the rare chance I would have to go to ER. But the moment I walked into the room with my pocket book my Mother and sister immediately reacted with concern asking me if I was going to ER. To my surprise I heard myself answering in the affirmative. Wondering at my odd response, I prepared to head to ER. Worrying all the time my foolishness in declaring that I needed to go even though I had no job or insurance to pay the bill.
The ride to ER quickly allayed my fears as I found myself desperately wishing to be at the destination. My sister from her position behind me, seemed to sense that something was fearfully wrong, as she worriedly asked me if I was still here. I did my best to downplay her fears by reassuring her that I was indeed alive, but her anxiety was still heightened and she urged that I should be taken to the nearest ER instead of the one we were heading to which was 10 miles away. I remained quiet, not wanting to increase the stress, but after another wave of that odd feeling washed over my chest I decided that she was probably right.
Arriving at the ER, it was a struggle to get my shaky legs to make their way inside. When the ER nurse finally called me, I struggled to explain my reason for coming, when I still could not explain why I had said that I wanted to come, instead of waiting to see what would happen as I originally planned. The reason was instantly clear to the triage nurse with one look at my pulse which rose and fell like an unhinged roller coaster. Immediately she called back for an EKG and was surprised when I was sent back to the waiting room a few minutes latter.
At last I was sent to a room where two nurses prepared to give me a medicine to help with my pulse. Still feeling rather ill, I would have looked forward to the relief it would provide, except I could not help why they had to send my family out of the room and loosen then unsnap my gown. My heart had raced before, and my family never had to be sent out of the room and the top of my gown prepped for a shot in my IV.
Instead of calming my fears, this move only heightened them. And instinctively I asked if something else could be done tried first. Fortunately I never had to find out why this unusually precautions were required as a recheck of my pulse revealed that it was down in the low 100’s. An hour of laying in the ER bed with an IV dripping liquids into my arm my pulse and nausea had calmed down so much that I felt rather sheepish for coming. That was until, alone in my room as my parents switched places, the doctor came in and said that the MRI of my chest reveled that I might have a blood clot.
Suddenly my world changed, as I realized how fully my life hung in the balance. Nausea and even tachycardia seemed minor to the realization that for some unknown reason my body was making clots leaving me at risk of having a heart attack or stoke. Before the doctor had finished speaking and once again before calling my Father to let him know that he needed to come back so that he would be there when I told my Mother what was wrong, my prayer for aid and comfort had risen to heaven.
As I sat alone in that strange stillness waiting for their return, quietly pondering how my world had changed, I found myself pondering the real possibility that I might never walk out of that hospital. Though I trusted in God, I had to take an honest look at the risk and recognize the possibility that even though He loved me, He might allow something to happen. In that moment I had to ask myself , how close to the threshold of heaven did I stand? But more importantly I had to ask, if the worst happened and my probation came to a crashing end, would I be ready? If my life ended that day and the next words I heard was God’s call, would I be glad to hear Him call my name, or would I squirm in fear.
Somehow as I thought o my personal fears and trials along with the intense unexpected and downward swing of those I loved, I found myself thinking less of my own worries and fears. My thoughts were drawn not to the ugly possibilities of what a stroke could do, but to the promised hope of that land faraway. In that moment oh how precious the promise of Jesus return seemed, as I asked myself how close to the threshold of heaven do I stand?
I hope that as you read this poem, that you will be inspired by this question that has become so close to my heart. And that you will pause from your hectic schedule to make certain that your heart is right with God, because we never know when in an unexpected moment our lives will be turned upside down, and our probation will forever be closed.
How close to the Threshold of Heaven do I Stand?
By Katherine B. Parilli
Where do I stand in the scope of time?
How close am I to crossing over the border?
When will the cup of earth’s iniquity be full?
And when will the door of mercy forever close?
I have grown weary of this world.
My eyes are tired of beholding sin.
My ears do throb from the shouts of vile rabble.
The cries of the widow ascend without ceasing.
And the fears of the oppressed weigh down upon my soul.
When will the trumpet sound?
When will the shout of victory ring though out eternity?
When will the power of the merciless be cut short?
Oh how long till the ugly day of sin come to its final close?
The wicked gather in the streets to mock Thy people.
They exult at the suffering poverty of their prey.
Pushing the poor from their shanty dwellings to make room for their jewel decked mansions.
Demanding an ever-increasing wealth to feed theses sharks of the land.
They hear not the father’s please of mercy for his children’s empty bellies,
Or a mother’s prayer for the protection of her sick child.
How long till the heavens be rolled back?
How long till the sign of the Son of Man appear?
How long till the kingdom of the devil is destroyed?
How long till justice one more fills the land?
Works of wickedness grow bolder each day.
They have no thought of pity for young or old.
Their ears are stopped to the painful moans of the ill or injured.
Their only thoughts are of evil and how to increase their vicious power.
Should not that day be drawing near?
Is not that hour upon us?
Is not the host of Heaven gathering the last sheaves before the harvest?
Is not this increasing of sorrows a sign of Your sure return?
Are You drawing near the door?
The earth is growing weary.
Storms are brewing at every turn.
Pounding land and sea with frightful furry.
The earth rolls and rises as if convulsing.
Like a feverish patient it reels and stumbles
Mercilessly seeking comfort.
Spewing its troubled contents,
Waiting for its day of healing.
Yes the day must be near.
The hour must be drawing close.
For Thou art a God of justice.
Only mercy and love are hidden within Thy wings.
As a loving father seeks the good of his children,
Thou has waited patiently for our return.
Yet Thy justice demands an end to sin.
Thy mercy must vanquish the cruel foe,
and bring an end to human suffering.
The army of the devil shall tremble.
For their fate they will weep.
And the righteous shall rejoice
As their deliverance draws nigh.
Then in that hour I shall be comforted.
My burden of sin licked up by the flames.
No longer my eyes to behold sorrow,
Or my ears the rude jest of a maddened throng.
Hunger, pain, poverty, all burred in the ashes.
Greed, illness, the grave wiped out in the cleansing flames.
It has been an exhausting but amazing few days since I posted Waiting to Make Our Dream Come True. When I wrote that post late Thursday evening, my family and I were digging in for a three long weeks of hoping and praying that our land would finally be cleared. After months of dead ends, unexpected delays, and a seemingly endless round of excuses we had reached the point that we were ready to call it all quits and put our dream land for sale. Confident that by the brick wall we seemed to hit each time that we attempted to get our lot clear, the Lord was telling us to stay where we were.
After a heartfelt round of prayers we finally made the call to the realtor who had found our small slice of heaven on earth that we had been postponing for months. To our great surprise, and relief, instead of jumping at the opportunity to earn a commission, he not only personally offered to find someone to clear the land for us, but had personally met each one at our lot to show them where the markers were and get their quotes.
The first person had given a fairly decent quote and even a small discount if we accepted that day and allowed him to start Monday morning. Nearly giddy from the idea of the land being cleared so soon we were instantly ready to accept even though the price while fair was pushing our already bulging budget. But there was still one more estimate which when it came in over a thousand dollars cheaper than the first was a positive delight to our reeling budget, only we would need to wait about three weeks before the work could begin. But with a tight budget what other choice did we have but to accept the cheaper offer and settle back and hope that at the end of three seemingly endless weeks we would not hear the dreaded words, I have fallen behind so it will have to wait a little longer, and the land would finally be cleared. And that is where that Thursday evening found us, stuck once more in the rut of hoping, praying, and waiting that another delay would not come our way.
Friday morning our minds were one place as we imagined the joy that would hopefully be ours as we finally enjoyed the privilege of a clean lot devoid of a forest of trees. The work of the day moved sluggishly as our minds naturally gravitated to the topic so dear to our hearts. Yet amidst our hopes was the nagging fear that for the sake of our budget we had made the wrong choice, and that at the end of three weeks we would hear the dreaded put off that we circumstances had risen which would require us to wait longer. And that despite our real estate agents kind efforts, we would once again be sitting on the train to nowhere, and our land would have to go for sale.
With our thoughts jumbled and our emotions running every which way focusing at mundane task was nearly impossible. Every thing took a hundred fold longer than what it should as our thoughts and conversations repeatedly returned to the mixed bag of soaring hopes and heart dropping fears. Unable to focus, we decided that it was senseless to keep spinning our wheels at home, but would clear our heads by getting the necessary grocery shopping out of the way, and with a clearer mind could devote the afternoon to working around the house.
After several unexpected delays, that included me mildly injuring my ankle, we arrived home well past lunch time. Our hungry stomachs weary at its delay we were rushing to empty the car and put together a quick meal when the phone rang. My heart racing from a strange confidence as I hobbled over the table, I was already certain I knew who was calling and why. My expectations met I did my best to rush from the family room to the garage where my parents and sister were still bringing in the groceries. My confidence was so certain that I simply handed the phone to my Father and returned to fixing our meal. Certain that our unspoken prayer and that at last we would have a concrete date for when our land would at least be cleared.
But even though I sensed that our prayers had been answered, I was not prepared for the magnitude of the answer. For I had assumed that the second person who had given us the lower of the two estimates had at last settled his schedule and we would finally have a date that we could circle on our calendar and look forward to with complete confidence. With that hope firm in my heart I had not bothered to hang around and listen to the conversation that ensued. So it was with great amazement that a few moments later I listened to my Father as he revealed that we not only had a date, but that thanks to the never failing love of God and the extreme kindness of our real estate agent, a miracle had been worked that not only put us on the schedule for the very next Monday, but would decrease our cost by several hundred more dollars! So that for six hundred dollars less than what it had cost a nearby neighbor to clear one acre, we would have all three of our acres cleared!
The burst of joy and thankfulness that filled our hearts at that moment far outweighed the sorrow of the last few months. As with trembling hearts we thanked the Lord for caring for us so much that he would move upon the heart of our real estate agent to first turn down a chance at commission, then lay aside his work to personally travel to our land so he could assure that we got a fair bid, and then even after we had accepted an offer to quietly work one bid against the other so that we could get an even lower rate.
Even now as I look back at the sudden and wonderful change in circumstance and my tired muscles remember the long, daily drives to watch the trees fall, my eyes tear up with joy as I think of the love of God in bending low to help my humble little family. For there is something about human nature that we do not think it such a big deal that God would help a rich family or one with great prestige, but that the King of the Universe should take His time to help one of limited means and whose name is unknown to the masses somehow still manages to come as some sort of surprise to us. Perhaps it is because we are accustomed upon this earth mankind rush to move heaven and earth moved for the rich, the famous, and the royal, yet without a second thought push off the needs of the quiet, the poor, and the humble, that without meaning to we figure that the Heavenly King would have no time or interest to intervene on our behalf. Yet in spite of our unworthiness and lowly place upon this earth, He had listened to and answered our prayers. And only a four days after writing the article about waiting to make our dreams come true, the very first of several hundred trees fell victoriously to the ground.
Whenever I hear this hymn I am transported back to my childhood. It is Friday evening, the sun is setting, and I am sitting on my Grandparents sofa. My Great-grandmother is sitting on the lazy boy rocker. Her hair is white as snow and her memory is in the first stages of fading away. My Grandmother is sitting to her right on a wooden rocker and my Grandfather is on the sofa nearest to the light.
With hymn books in hand we have gathered in the small living room to join together in worship to welcome the Sabbath. The fact that my Father, sister, and I barely know a word of Spanish does not matter, because unlike my Great-Grandmother and Grandfather, my Grandmother can only speak a little bit of English.
Our ability to communicate with her without the aid of my Mother or Grandfather to translate is limited. Making it impossible to sit down and freely speak with her as we would like. But for that one moment, as we sat down for worship and lifted our voices in song the communication gap was gone.
It is true that we did not understand all words, but that did not matter because we knew that it was hymn of praise to God. And oh what a glorious moment as we lifted our voices. For that brief moment the language barrier seemed to fade as our voice united in praise to God and by faith our hearts were carried to that glorious day when Jesus would return and at last we would be free to sit and talk. The language barrier would be no more, and the words that we had spent a lifetime longing to share would at last be able to freely flow.
As I listen to the words of Cantad algres al Senor, my heart beats with delight as I remember those precious few evenings. With cloudy eyes I think back to the joy that filled my heart and how I miss those Friday nights. For sadly those evenings are no more as both my Great-Grandmother and my Grandfather now lay quietly in the tomb waiting for that longed for day when Jesus shall call them forth to take part in that glorious family reunion wherwe shall once again lift up our voices to sing praises to our King.
I know that it has been quite awhile since my last post. I have wanted to post for quite some time, but have been enduring a rather strong flare up that has left me curled up in a tight ball for days on end. Leaving me little time to accomplish important task like helping with the dishes or assisting with the family budget. By the time I was ready to log onto Word Press my small bank account of energy had been overdrawn and it was not long before I had to turn off the laptop and curl up in a tight ball once more.
The past few months have been far from easy. Filled with long days of pain, fatigue, miserable migraines, the intense body chill of Reynolds, and a slowly increasing heart rate it seemed at times like someone pressed the pause button for my life. Though it has not been easy, I had one great comfort. The sustaining trust that I was not going through the hour of trial alone. My confidence that every groan, every ache, every tear of misery had been marked by Jesus.
In those long hours of suffering I found myself often thinking of what it must have been like for Jesus during those last few hours before the cross. My iron low leaving me cold and struggling to get the strength to walk the few feet from my room to the sofa, I wondered how after being beaten multiple times and having already lost a fair quantity of blood, Jesus endured what must have felt like an eternal walk from Jerusalem to Golgotha. Then, weak and in great physical pain he was hoisted upon a crude cross.
I know that Halloween was a few days ago, but a few videos that I came across got me to thinking about this day. In the home I grew up in Halloween was not an issue. My parents had from an early age taught my sister and I that Halloween was not a day that we as Christians could safely participate in. Well they did not full comprehend the reasons for and against, my parents gave us the best explanation that they could to provide us with an understanding that the main elements of Halloween such as dressing up as devils, and decorating the yard with skeletons and witches, was contrary to the word of God.
It was not until my late teens, when we came across several programs discussing the occult connections of Halloween, that my family began to get a fuller understanding of Halloween and how deeply it stood in contrast to the plain word of God. And I at last began to formulate an answer to the question why my family and I did not participate in this increasingly popular holiday. Watching those videos I began to understand that the reasons for abstaining from this day had less to do with inappropriate costumes, and more to do with its ties to elements the Bible banned such as contacting the dead and spirits as well as spells and divining fortunes.
As I see the strange events happening all around me, it moves my heart. I feel a deep ache as I think about the millions and billions of people out there who have never heard of the love of God. Or worse yet, by the poor example of world loving Christian’s such as myself, have seen nothing to draw them to God.
More times than I would like to admit, I have been drawn to the things of this world. My eye has been caught by the glitter and gloss that the devil holds out like a carrot stick that he promises to give us a heaping bite of it only we will take this step and then that step until we find ourselves slipping into over the precept and falling into the gully of ruin.
When I see how close we are to the return of Jesus, a thought which on one hand fills me with joy, on the other hand it feels me with regret as I see the precious hours that I have wasted and the poor example that I have been. As I think of the joys that He has promised, of the delight of throwing off my glasses and saying goodbye to my aching body, a deep sadness fills my heart as I wonder if by my neglect there will be or two missing from the kingdom of Heaven who might have been there if I had taken the time to reach out and share with them the word of God or had been a better example of the purity and loving master I claimed to serve.
Trust is one of those funny things in life that cannot exist except in the presence of trial, tribulation, and doubt. During times of peace, prosperity, and abundance we can claim we trust, we can say that we are confident. But surrounded by comfort, bathing in the soothing waters of excess, and enjoying the delightful strains of peace there is little room for fear or doubt.
Gliding down the still waters our hearts have nothing to faint at. No reason to reach out our perspiration drenched hands and hold onto the hands of another with all our might. Hoping and praying that our feeble grasp will not give or the arm above us grow tired.
But when the still waters fade and the deafening roar of the waterfall fills our hears with fear and our heart lunges inside our aching chest, that is when trust is revealed. That is when we reveal to one and all if our words of confidence in the unswerving promises of God are the overconfident prattle of the prosperous or genuine gold which they too should desire.
In the hour of need, when everything we hold dear is at stake, that is when, by our actions, we preach our greatest sermon. In the testing fire of trial we can show to one and all, that even though our hands may shake and eyes fill with tears, the chord between heaven and earth is stronger than the hurricane of fear. That peace of heart is ours because we believe and trust the promises of the One who promised that He will hear our prayers and take care of our needs. And we show the world that the promises of God are worth more than all the gold and silver in this world.