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.)

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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.

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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

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Unspun

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In third grade I read the book, Charlotte’s Web. I was enthralled. It’s a story about a brilliant, compassionate (and miraculously literate) arachnid and her unlikely friend, a pig named Wilbur. The author, E.B. White, described Charlotte’s web-spinning and Wilbur’s wonder in such vivid detail that I imagined myself in the barn, surrounded by farm animals, gazing at one of Charlotte’s delicately dazzling designs.

Charlotte was simply enchanting… wise, witty, loyal, true. And without a doubt the finest web designer/spinner/speller in all the (farm)land. But even Charlotte couldn’t dispel my fears nor diminish my disdain for those eight-legged mini-monsters commonly called spiders.

A couple weeks back, I was washing my hair and minding my own business, when I felt a distinctly creepy/crawly sensation on the back of my leg. A spider the size of a golf ball (or maybe a garbanzo bean; I can’t recall due to post-traumatic stress) was scaling my calf. Suffice it to say that the blood-curdling screams echoing from the master bath were eerily reminiscent of the shower scene in “Psycho.”

Just the mere thought of a spider crawling on my person is enough to give me the quivers, shivers, and shakes. Eight hairy legs and those beady eyes… Seriously, God? That’s just FREAKY.

(I may or may not have a moderate to severe case of arachnophobia.)

Despite my irrational fears, however, I do find spiders fascinating. At a distance. (You know: far, far away. In illustrated encyclopedias… and cyber space.)

Here’s a little smattering of spider facts for your All Hallows’ Eve reading pleasure:

There are at least 38,000 different species of spiders.

Over 1 million spiders live on every acre. Scientists estimate that a human is never more than 10 feet from a spider. Ever. Even when we sleep. (I feel a case of insomnia coming on.)

When a spider moves, it has 4 legs touching the ground and 4 legs in the air at any given moment. 

All spiders have spinnerets which act like tiny showerheads with hundreds of holes, all spinning liquid silk.

For its (ultralight) weight, a spider web is stronger than steel.

Spiders have blue blood.

The goliath spider can grow up to 11 inches long with 1-inch fangs it uses to hunt mice, lizards, birds, and frogs.

Most spiders build a new web every day, but some spiders “recycle” their webs by eating and later reusing them. 

Spiders don’t have teeth; instead, they inject their prey with digestive juices and suck up their innards.

Spiders lay as many as 3000 eggs at a time.

Most spiders are nearsighted. However, certain species can see both UVA and UVB light.

The venom of a female black widow is 15 times as powerful as the poison of a rattlesnake.

Spiders webs have electrically conducive glue spread across their surface so they “spring” toward their prey.

Except this kind:

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Or this:

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So that’s your zoology lesson for the day, friends. (Courtesy of National Geographic, FactRetriever.com and yours truly.) A spine-chilling, hair-raising Halloween science tutorial you can impart to your little superhero/ princess/ ninja/ unicorn/ dinosaur/ ladybug/ zombie/ Disney character/ karate kid(s) as they sort their Whoppers/ Twizzlers/ Tootsie Rolls/ Twix/ Nerds/ Snickers/ Skittles/ Starburst/ Sour Patch Kids/ Kit Kats and my personal fun-size favorite, Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins.

I digress. (It’s the sugar buzz.)

Back to those abominable arachnids…

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And their astonishing handiwork…

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Look at that web. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? But despite its beauty and resilience, it’ll tear with a gust of wind or brush of the hand. It gives way at the slightest pressure. The intricate, elaborate work of the spider is instantly torn and tattered, undone. . . and unspun.

Just like that.

What about us? Life has too many strong gusts and sudden sideswipes to rely on something flimsy or fragile to anchor us. Everyone needs a lifeline: a safety net, securely fastened to provide strong support in tumult and trouble, durable enough to catch us. And hold fast.

What are you hanging onto?

So often, we perceive “things” will keep us safe and sound: houses and health insurance, law enforcement agencies and pharmaceuticals, security systems and savings accounts and self-defense courses. We mistakenly believe that if we put all the right pieces in place, nothing will breach our carefully constructed “fortresses.” We rely on our own resilience, resources and capabilities to rescue us. Or we rely on others:  family, friends, doctors, lawyers, therapists (all of whom will eventually fail us. . . or leave us. . . or die.)

Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. What they trust in is fragile; what they rely on is a spider’s web. They lean on the web, but it gives way; they cling to it, but it does not hold.  ~ Job 8:13-15

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In all the universe, there’s only one unfraying, unfailing, utterly indestructible safety net. Only one surefire source of protection and provision. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proffering a source of lifelong “health, wealth, and prosperity” here. I’m not delusional. (Except about my party-planning skills and my dance moves, perhaps.) And I’m not suggesting that anyone — anywhere – can promise a footloose and fancy-free, always beautiful-and-blissful life. There’s no actual Shangri-La or Xanadu to be found on Planet Earth. There’s no Fountain of Youth either, by the way. I’ve looked. (The State of Denial is very real, however. I know some people who live there.)

The truth is… life is hard. It hurts. Sometimes relentlessly. Excruciatingly. Or both.

Man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward. ~ Job 5:7

There it is. The Good Book readily acknowledges all the bad and ugly in life too. Ongoing affliction, sudden calamity, depths of sorrow. Anguish, grief, destruction, despair.

There’s no getting around it. Wealthy or poor, citizen or refugee, religious or skeptic, educated or illiterate… troubles are inevitable. Struggles, strife, conflict and crises are just par for the course. And worse yet, every once in a while the bottom drops out.

Wildfires. Tornados. Tsunamis.

Drunk drivers. Child abusers. Snipers. Savages.

There’s no foolproof preventative for every disaster, no miracle cure for every disease, no effective antidote to toil/trials/terror/rage. And no vaccination against psychosis.

But there is someone who promises to never leave you, forsake you or fail you. No matter how bad things get.

Someone whispers to you in your darkest hour…

I am with you… I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you… 

Who is acutely aware of what you’re going through, even right now? Who’s attentive to your every need, always? Who sees you – really sees – and knows you, heart and soul? Who’s aware of what lies ahead and is already there, waiting for you with open arms? Who is tenderly, mercifully caring for you day and night? God Himself gives the answer:

I AM.

Yes… indeed. He is.

Clinging to Him tonight and every night,

Wendy

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P.S. Wishing you all a happy Halloween and a joyous start to the holiday season. Only 23 days ’til Thanksgiving… (Get your GRATEFUL on!)

 

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.  😉

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