What’s Brewing

It’s trick-or-treat time again. And you know what that means…

Temperatures are falling, leaves are falling, and leaflets from politicians are dropping into mailboxes day after day. (Please recycle… and pray the negativity isn’t catching.)

Halloween is here. (Pumpkins on porches. Check. Parties in preschools. Check. “Thriller,” “Monster Mash,” and “Werewolves of London” on playlists. Check. Check. Check.) But all the fun-size candy in Kroger can’t counteract the increasing bitterness in our world. All the cute kiddie costumes can’t mask the ugly, grisly and grotesque coming into plain view everywhere from a synagogue in Pittsburgh to a kindergarten class in Chongqing.

Evil is real.

And it’s always brewing.

A few weeks ago, I stood on the beach with a friend and watched the sun set over the water.

It was a dark and stormy night… (It really was.)

IMG_1288.JPG

As we stood at the water’s edge, huge thunderheads rolled in, and the sky slowly faded to black. Lightning flashed in the distance, and the sea graced us with a dazzling reflection. We knew it was risky to stand there, unprotected, on the shore… but we couldn’t pull ourselves away. The lightning was wild and beautiful, streaking across the night sky in staccato bursts. We were captivated.

IMG_2358

The rumbling and cracking crept closer, more frequent and fierce. And finally, as the storm front overtook us, we ran for cover.

Because it was the only wise thing to do.

So many storms battering our neighborhoods and the nations. Political firestorms, natural disasters, bomb threats, hate crimes, racial tension, religious persecution, and global unrest… from north to south, east to west.

And then there are the internal tempests. Dread, distress, dis-ease. Gripping fear, crippling depression, simmering rage… raging psychosis.

(Some troubled souls battle their demons a long, long, long time… and then succumb.)

The truth is, sometimes we see a storm brewing… and we can’t or don’t take cover. Because we’re paralyzed with fear. Or too busy storm-tracking. Or focused on fault-finding. Or foolish enough to think we can brave the elements alone.

And sometimes the storms blindside us.

Like stray lightning bolts or bullets – unpredictable and deadly. Something – or someone – gets struck in an instant. Stricken by catastrophe… meteorologic or manmade.

Some storms are self-inflicted. Imprudent decisions, impulsive actions, stoking conflict, fueling hate.

Like a tornado tearing up a town.

A rampage about to erupt.

A bomb set to detonate.

Whether we realize it or not, most of life’s storms brew in an unseen realm. Two powerful fronts collide…

Good vs. Evil.

Ultimately, that’s what all the world is. A storm front. A battleground. Because that’s what we are. Good and evil. Divine and despicable. Made in God’s beautiful image… and inclined to turn ugly.

All of us.

And the reality of that can be heartbreaking. Or horrific.

How is it possible that in this country – the land of the free and the home of the brave – even a synagogue isn’t safe anymore?

I cannot explain away all the evil in the world, except to say that God – out of His goodness – gives us the freedom to do as we please.

Some do good. (And some don’t.)

But I am absolutely certain of this:

When broken, tormented people choose to break and torment… God isn’t MIA.

He is Savior.

For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty Savior. ~ Zephaniah 3:17a (NLT)

Ultimately and eternally, Jesus saves.

But sometimes we don’t get to see the rescue on planet earth. That alone can be a terrifying thought. Traveling through an entire lifetime without a real sense of security. Without knowing that we can find refuge and relief. Someplace. Any place.

That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it? Where do we turn? When all hell breaks loose, we need a safe place to hide out – and ride out – the storm.

A bunker. A shelter. A stronghold.

Where’s your safeguard? Or more pointedly, who?

Who do you turn to when it seems disaster’s about to strike? Who cares deeply enough and is capable of offering protection and imparting peace?

“Help us, Almighty One. You’re our only hope.”

(I know I sound like a lot like Princess Leia here, but the line – the plea – rings true.)

Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LordHe alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him. ~ Psalm 91:1-2

But what about those precious people who were slaughtered in their place of worship on Saturday? Where was God when that shooter opened fire?

Where He always is.

Near.

Just as God promised Joshua once upon a time, He promises us. (And them…)

I will always be with you. I will never abandon you.

When we cry out to Him, He hears… cares… comes.

Always.

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and God will say, “I’m here.” ~ Isaiah 58:9 (CEB)

God’s presence is ever present.

Where could I go to get away from your spirit? Where could I go to escape your presence? If I went up to heaven, you would be there. If I went down to the grave, you would be there too! If I could fly on the wings of dawn, stopping to rest only on the far side of the ocean— even there your hand would guide me; even there your strong hand would hold me tight! ~ Psalm 139:7-10 (CEB)

Yes, storms are brewing. And some will wreak havoc.

So, please… please don’t delay. Seek shelter immediately.

Godspeed.

Wendy

P.S. One more thought on the evil in the world…

“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Charles Baudelaire

Advertisements

Scary as IT

My dear reader,

Happy Fall, y’all!

(Sounds strange coming from a former Windy-City-slicker-turned-Indy-Hoosier, I know. But “Happy Fall, you guys!” just doesn’t have the same cheery ring to it. Besides, I did live in the Bluegrass State briefly back in grade school. I guess some of the southern stuck.)

Next to Christmastime, this season is my favorite. The autumnal equinox ushers in a brisk, beautiful prelude to the holidays: bonfires, blazing colors, crisp air, hot cider. I’m utterly and irreversibly smitten with all things autumn: the shimmer of the first frost, the smell of burning leaves, Friday night lights, playoff baseball, sweater weather, s’mores, and pumpkin spice everything. Autumn is a kaleidoscope of colors, flavors, festivities and fun!

And scary stuff too.

Fall is chock-full of freaky.

Spiders, skulls, zombies and vampires, everywhere. I get a little creeped out in Target these days. The “seasonal aisle” is filled with cauldrons, hatchets, rubber bats, and (bloody) digits. Pretty sure the shelf-stockers and stockholders couldn’t give a rip about merchandising or marketing or “the-all-important-in-store-shopping-experience.” They’re just trying to scare the living daylights out of us. And sell some fake blood.

Which brings me to Halloween. As far as I’m concerned, Halloween is just a footnote (or perhaps more fittingly, an epitaph) in all of autumn’s glory. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the trick-or-treaters and porch pumpkins and glow sticks and fun-size Twix (or twelve) on All Hallow’s Eve, but I could do without the gory/grisly/gruesome/grim/grotesque.

I want nothing to do with it.

Or “It,” for that matter.

I plan to keep my distance from Stephen King and his creepy clown. I don’t care what Rotten Tomatoes or Rolling Stone has to say. I have no plans to see this movie. Not even the trailer, no. Not in a box. Not with a fox. Not near a sewer. I won’t be a viewer.

(On a side note, I’m pretty sure this film is gonna run Ringling Brothers right out of town. And ruin it for Bozo… and balloon artists everywhere.)

Unlike my handful of Halloween-happy friends, I have zero interest in the October FearFest/Ghostober/Pee-Your-Pants programming on cable. Jason, Freddy, Chucky, Carrie, Rosemary (and her baby) are not welcome at my house. Ever. “Friday the 13th” or “The Shining?” Neither, thank you. “Amityville Horror” or “Halloween?” Nope. “The Exorcist” or “The Omen?” Not a chance. I don’t do horror movies.

Well, except for that one time I did.

Once upon a time, I was trying to be the Cool Mom. Before I determined it to be a hopeless cause. (Sweet Mom I can do. Snickerdoodles, anyone?) Zack was a freshman in high school, and he and I had planned a Mother*Son*Fun weekend. Which meant we were ordering lots of pizza and watching football day and night. I asked him if there was anything else he wanted to do together and offered a few ideas (bowling, batting cages, a bike ride. I know… lame.) Whatever he wanted to do – as long as it wasn’t crazy expensive or wildly dangerous – I was game, I said. He suggested a movie night.

“Let’s watch ‘The Ring,'” he said casually.

“Isn’t that a horror film?” I asked.

“I guess. But it’s really not that scary. I’ve seen it.”

“If you’ve already seen it, let’s watch something else.” Pretty sure I suggested the second installment of “Lord of the Rings,” hoping the Orcs would be ghastly enough to suffice.

“C’mon, Mom. You said whatever I want.” Ugh. Yes. Yes, I did.

“Ok, sure.” How bad could it be, really? I’m a mom. I’ve witnessed childbirth, treated pinkeye, plantar warts and toenail fungus, seen the ugly aftermath of a tonsillectomy, and performed multiple pore extractions (type “John Belushi and mashed potatoes” in your search bar and you’ll get a general idea of what I mean). I can brave blood and guts.

So we popped in the DVD… and I spent the next two hours fluctuating between panic-stricken, petrified, and traumatized. (Even with my eyes closed and my ears covered to muffle the eerie sound effects.) Sinister doesn’t begin to describe this movie. I think it may have been produced by Lucifer & Company in association with Torment Pictures.

Zack was greatly amused by my ongoing hysterics: wincing, wailing, gasping, praying. (Which meant our Mother*Son*Fun Weekend was a great success by his standards.) As soon as the credits started rolling, I grabbed that DVD and drove straight to Blockbuster (remember that place?) to return it. Why? Because Samara. Had. To. Go.

I know that sounds a little paranoid, but the truth is… that film was downright disturbing. It was steeped in darkness and dread and death and doom. Fiction or not, evil exists. Not just in nightmares and movies. In real life. Actual, palpable malevolence.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)

(This means war.)

Wait… what? There’s a cosmic good vs. evil thing going on in an “unseen world” right now? Mighty powers? Evil spirits? Dark world? Maybe you think that doesn’t sound legit. It sounds like little-kid/scaredy-cat/monsters-in-my-closet kind of stuff. Your intellect scoffs. I get it. You’re understandably wary of anything beyond what your five senses can detect and your deductive reasoning can reconcile. But then, how do you explain the world’s worst atrocities? The Holocaust? Unit 731? The Killing Fields? How do you account for ongoing evil: human trafficking, gang rape, child abduction, death squads? It’s savagery. And whether you believe it or not, there are spiritual underpinnings.

I realize I may lose some of you here. But stick with me, just for a minute.

If there’s a threat, we expect emergency alerts and tracking systems and sirens, right? Well, God said we should consider ourselves forewarned: a battle’s raging. He urges us to armor up, and He promises to fight for us. But most people are incredulous. Or oblivious. (“The devil’s finest trick is to persuade you that he does not exist,” wrote Charles Baudelaire. And he sure as heck ain’t a guy in a red suit with a pitchfork.)

I’m not arguing out of paranoia or fear-mongering. God knows we have a glut of both. The reality is, there’s plenty of terrifying and troubling in the world without crackpots, pundits and (self-proclaimed) prophets stoking the hysteria. The prevalence of anxiety diagnoses and serious psychological distress in the U.S. is startling. Fear slinks and skulks, crouches and creeps. Closer and closer, it seems. And it fuels itself. It boosts news ratings. And it sells stuff. (Security systems, insurance policies, pitbulls and pepper spray, to name a few.) But there’s a free, (super)natural antidote to all this rampant fear and trepidation, and it’s available to everyone, everywhere.

A safety net. A storm shelter. A hiding place.

God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, before the rush and roar of oceans, the tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us. (Psalm 46:1-3, The Message)

On this crazy, scary, spinning planet, God is rock solid… Rescuer. Shelter. Saferoom.

It’s true. Sometimes real life imitates horror movies. There are sickos, psychos, perverts and predators on the loose. Killer clowns, even. (John Wayne Gacy comes to mind.) And so… I have no inclination to seek them out in a dark theater. Even if there is popcorn.

God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout. (Psalm 18:1-2)

So, how do we get there? To that castle behind the boulders… that granite hideout?

It’s just a hop/skip/jump away, my friend. A leap… of faith.

Jump into the arms of Jesus. He’ll catch you. (Promise.)

One… two… FREE…

Free-falling,

Wendy

P.S. I hope I haven’t offended any of my horror film fan-friends. (You go right ahead and scare yourselves silly, you crazy kids!) To each his own… genre.  😉

IMG_7872

Fall Color Commentary

eaf5b8c8-4b5d-4257-900c-c6209663b0ba

My dear reader,
I have good news and bad news today.
The bad news? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard. There’s plenty. Enough to batter and break-in-half even the bravest of hearts. And it just keeps coming. The bad news hits full force, like a Category-5 hurricane, pounding our shores and pummeling our spirits, day and night. It’s splashed all over the internet and scrolling across every newsfeed in the world right now. And today, I’m going to leave it there. (Besides, I’m pretty sure the blow-by-blow coverage and commentary is part of the problem.  We fan the flames of fear and fury… and then wonder why we’re trapped in a firestorm.)
Let’s get to the good news.
My favorite season is upon us. No, not season 11 of “The Voice,” though I won’t deny it. I’m hooked. I used to make fun of those people. The umpteen viewers who had time for bake-offs and dance-offs and crime shows and the Kardashians. (I know: Pride comes before the fall. I’m flat-on-my-couch every Monday and Tuesday night, 8 pm EST.) Anyway, blind auditions are underway. Adam and Blake are bickering. Miley is behaving (though I’m pretty sure the Fashion Police will be issuing multiple citations). But the real star this season is undeniably… Alicia. Alicia Keys is on “The Voice,” people! IMHO, that woman is a natural wonder. Bold spirit, brilliant talent, radiant beauty. Simply flawless, even with a completely bare (we’re talking buck-naked) face. It’s criminal. I plan to make a citizens’ arrest, along with her former makeup artist.
But that’s not the point. The point is this: today marks the Autumnal Equinox. The first full day of fall. Autumn has finally, officially arrived. (Oh how I’ve missed her harvest moon and Honeycrisp apples and crunchy leaves and candy corn and pumpkin-spiced everything.)  One day soon, after the temperatures dip low, she will leave me beaming and breathless, beholding all of her blazing glory.  I will step out into the crisp morning air and practically inhale the colors. The greens and golds, the ambers and auburns, the corals and crimsons.  The vivid pops of canary yellow and burnt orange and fire-engine red.  They leave me wonderstruck, every time.
If you haven’t yet, I urge you to schedule a date with the great outdoors. Circle a day (or two or three) and devote an entire afternoon or weekend morning or midday lunch break or whatever you can snatch… and just bask in the ravishing glow of this golden season. Pack a picnic or take a hike. Find a forest preserve or pick out a park bench. Follow a nature trail or sprawl out on a blanket. And welcome Autumn.
Isn’t she lovely?
~ Wendy
P.S.  I’d be delighted if you would invite me (well, my book, actually) on your date with the outdoors! Treasure Hunter: A Field Guide for 12 Spiritual Expeditions is part scriptural guide and part journal/sketchbook: a tool for inviting God’s presence and peace through a series of mini-retreats. (And who isn’t longing for peace right about now?) The field guide features 12 distinctive “expeditions,” each of which takes place in a different nature setting. It’s perfect for your autumn outing!

treasure-cover

For a chance to win a free copy (and a Pumpkin Spice Latte!), click “follow” and sign up to receive my blog posts via email. One new follower will receive a complimentary copy of the field guide and a $5 Starbucks gift card! Deadline is Sunday, September 25 at 11:59 pm. (Winner will be notified by email on or before October 1.) Or, you can order a copy today by sending a check for $15 to: His Heartwork, 9874 Highland Springs Dr N, McCordsville IN 46055. Include your shipping address (if different than the one printed on your check.) HAPPY FALL!