Story Sirens

Stories we watch to get outside of our own story.
People we watch to distract us from the fact that we are missing real relationship. Maybe we want to avoid relationships that are difficult. Maybe, like me, we lack relationship and are alone. But we turn to these faces on these screens to help us with something.

The emotions I feel when I watch a story play out.
It's a short journey of predictable turns and sometimes unpredictable twists. But the writers usually give us what we don't know we really want. A story that doesn't end but is added to with each new episode or each new theatrical release. We don't want them to end.

We long for eternity.
A place where stories are told forever. Endless friends who have no evil and speak no lies. We crave a place where our stories go on and we continue in the limitless potential of existence. The entertainment industry continues to deliver story after story. But Heaven delivers true story after true story with no fillers and no editing.

People are a wealth of story.
Each person we meet has untold stories just waiting to be heard. Even the mundane are significant. Sure, Hollywood does us a favor of keeping our emotions on high and our minds engaged. But if you met those actors they would tell you it was all staged. Their story is different, but they played the part well.

Diving headlong into entertainment is sinking deep into illusion. The sirens only help us escape to the dark depths of a cold and unforgiving sea. When we come up for air each time the air feels more stale and the colors less real. It's killing us but we prefer death to truth. Slow death seems to be our default humanity.

I visit the sirens when I'm lonely.
They sing me their lullaby and tell me stories that aren't true about people I'll never meet. After I walk away and face the silence of my room I...  realize that I was never alone. Even as I sought after the solace of those deceptive voices of the sea, He was with me. I feel His flood of real peace that isn't edited or written or walking a red carpet. He just IS.

The peace of knowing He who holds everything in place and He who guides my every step. Knowing that He loves... no, adores me! He longs for me like I long for Heaven. He is with me on every page of my story and every flicker of the unseen film that is recording every second of my life. The ways He kisses me with colors and coincidences and brushes my hair back with a cool breeze. The way He floats a calming thought through my brain and surprises me with a small convenience. He opens my door and gives me flowers and listens to me endlessly. He knows everything about me and His mercy is palpable and sweet.

My body and brain long for relationship with people. My spirit longs for God. My body and brain settle for entertainment and bide their time. We visit the sirens as old friends and listen to their song. They don't scare me. The God of all things can shut the mouths of the sirens or sing much more beautifully than they ever could. I wait for Him to do that. He's always with me as we enjoy the stories and my spirit finds moments to share with Him as we do. I do everything with God. He unlocks it all and shows me the reality in everything.

Entertainment is an opportunity to see what God sees. He reveals the siren's song for what it is and lights up the darkness with His veil-ripping strength. Then He closes my eyes and rests my imagination while He does His unseen work in my spirit. My story will continue forever because of Him.


Learning Grief

What is grief? I've never been too close to death. I can only begin to imagine the pain of losing someone who is a part of my every day. But I am quickly approaching the age where death is starting to just happen around me. Everywhere. People leave. They leave this world. They leave us here to remember them. We know they will never be back. Somehow the pain of knowing this wells up within us in a flood of memories. The end of who they are on Earth has come. They will no longer add to their story. There is an ending. We are afraid we will forget. We are compelled to celebrate their completed story, all the while feeling the devastation and finality of mortality. We shoulder the weight of what they won't contribute to the world. An abrupt halt of life and yet we saw so much more for them.

I'm slowly becoming acquainted with grief little by little. But I have yet to feel the sledge hammer that comes when someone very close is lost. If I can survive it, it will happen to me. That's the way it works, I believe. Meanwhile, I lose a few loved figures of my identity. A couple of friends' moms and my all-time favorite mainstream singer/songwriter. I was hit unexpectedly hard with grief. It's like the dark reality of death finally busted down my door again and a few brushed-away tears weren't enough. Having no close experience with loss makes me sensitive to it, perhaps.

But death is temporary. Really, people just move on before us but they can't tell us what's there. I strangely float between jealousy and mourning. But mostly, I think, grief is having to let go. All those expectations and hopes vanish. The empty places where they might still have been, make the memories of when they were there painful. It's missing out on the story.

There are many levels of grief. Closing a casket on a loved one is a deep grief I've yet to fully endure. Closing a book after spending weeks with fictional characters is a shallow grief. It's just practice. Walking out of a theatre after intense emotional connection to actors is also a small grief and shallower still. More practice. We take the memories from entertainment with us and pull them out of our back pocket brains as long as they'll hold together. But the memories of real people who knew us and loved us in return, this get engrained.

But what's gone is gone here. Time passes and grass grows over graves. Bodies that were once warm and full of magnificent life are empty and cold, becoming part of the ground around them. It's so wrong. Hands that once gave loving touches become crooked like roots. Bones that no longer move with the grace of a dancer crumble like white clods of earth. The person is long gone from it. They've only left their pieces and headstone behind as a memory of who once dwelt here with us.

It's a clear message from eternity. The message whispers that these bodies are merely instruments used for the glory of their Creator. They were never intended to contain the entire story of their inhabitant. They are merely the introduction to existence. This life is only the preface to the actual Life. It's where God gives us a start and so many chances too fail. This shadow sparks our appetite for something more and something real. So many generations before us believed rightly that there is a world beyond this one. It's the hunger in our souls that is never satisfied here.

There's so much that I don't know about grief. But as I learn in small ways and am prepared for the agony of loss I can remember the greatness we were created for. Death is the ultimate evidence that we need God. It's the flaming sword that keeps us from the Tree of Life. The only way to Him is through the fire. The only way to survive the fire is by going in with Jesus.


My Healer - A Poem

My Healer

Where are you, my healer?
The salve of my wounds
The rest in my breast

These hands, alone
holding each other
while murmurs of grace slide past
ears sunk in memories
muffles in a white tub
me, only breathing

Where are you, my healer?
The bed of warmth
The grip of embrace

A company, myself
to touchstones, go out
with a pair of feet lonely together
eyes, two reaching arms
in the dark of waiting
me again, just hoping

Where are you, my healer?
The ending sweet
The promised balm

No motion but mine
waves still with no moon
hollow echoes from too near walls
vast the empty splayed out
life leaving what fell where
just me, to walk through it

Where are you, my healer?
The balanced act
The stable quiver

The seconds drop away 
piling up on other days
dust rests on the humbled forgotten
content to thrum on, on
beneath calm distractions
lies an unexpected peace

(C)2017 Diana Blackwood


Blessed Defeat

It's like we're in a cold war between God and the devil. God the Father oversees everything that happens in this war and strategically places His obedient children where He feels they need to be. You'd think that He would put the best and brightest in the positions that offer advantage over the enemy. But more often that not, it seems, He makes them sit humbly on the sidelines and watch as the weaker ones head blindly into the fray.

These young and fragile people are sent into the heart of the turmoil almost completely unarmed. But they go in believing they can fight. They march forward feeling proud to have made it to the front lines. It isn't long before they see the carnage and the awful power of the opposing forces. But by then it's too late. Reality hits hard.

From our perspective God doesn't do war very well. He seems to be working with the enemy rather than against him. He sends in a child with a sling to do a warrior's work. We all know how that particular giant went down, but what about Job? God's up in heaven taking bets from the enemy of our souls. Job is down on earth wrestling with incomprehensible pain from loss and disease. His words are recorded in detail as he's abandoned or accused by people he once trusted. He knows it's all God's doing; that God the Father allowed it and led him into it. A once powerful and prosperous man sitting in a heap, scraping his rotting skin.

Prophets, Judges, Kings, Apostles... we have them as examples. They start out thinking they've been bestowed a great earthly honor. Soon they see what they'll have to suffer for His sake. All of the stalwart fighters in God's army are given more than they can handle. Little by little God pushes them further into the impossible realm of adversity. They become spectacles marching, hands tied, at the end of the parade. They are objects of pity to onlookers.

How can it be that these suffering and tortured can continue to believe in a loving God? And they do! Not only is their faith unshaken, it's fortified by the misfortune they endure. Trusting in God has meant more hardship for His children. The initial rush to the front lines with heady recklessness sends us crawling back with a deep knowledge of our inadequacy. Where do we come back to? The open arms of our King and the healing salve of His love.

God's wisdom guides us in a specifically tailored path that is just for us. When we continually trust Him, we find ourselves. We find ourselves broken, lacking, filthy, and in desperate need. God isn't in the business of giving us self-esteem. He's designed our lives to show us the truth about ourselves so that we may esteem Him above all. Once we see how He fulfills each gaping depravity, we are in awe of Him!

Human beings are all soldiers. We all fight for something or for someone. Whatever cause we are for, we become strengthened to endure it. Where does your strength come from? For whom do you fight? Can your cause pull you through the most horrific circumstance you can imagine? God has shown Himself faithful to pull me through hell's atomic flames unscathed. All that is around me may go up in a blast, but who I am will remain intact. Each time I'm overtaken and defeated, trust in my own abilities dies a little more. I'm rescued and in awe of the One who saves me.


Sibling Rivalry

"He called me a 'dumb butt'!"
"She said I was the worst person in the world!"
"It's because he pinched me really hard!"
"Well, she wasn't being FAIR!"

These are lyrics to what I like to call The Same Old Song. It's the song of sibling rivalry. Any parent with more than one child less than eighteen years apart knows this song well. We could sing it by heart. I hear it nearly every day in some variation or another. It makes my neck hairs stand up and the muscles underneath them tighten. But surprisingly, my first reaction is to join in! Let's add mom's voice to the mix and see what kind of tune that makes, shall we?

No. Lately I've been feeling it deeper. I've been showing my kids what their fighting really does to me. I show it in my eyes and I say it with my words, "Ouch. It hurts Mommy's heart when you guys fight." Not that empathy or compassion would even occur to an elementary school child, just ask the nearest bug (crunch). But I want to be as honest as I can with them. I don't want to hide my true feelings about them, whether good or bad. They have as much of me as they can get and I want to be authentic. So I've had to get past the immediate visceral response an explosion of tattle tales instigates in me. I've had to discover what really bothers me about it.

I desire peace. Not only is it pleasant to move around in, it also promotes healing. I desire unity. It's a beautiful thing that can create many opportunities for kids to grow into healthy people. I desire love. The most wonderful thing we can experience in this place. I want all of these things for my kids and their future. Fighting threatens all of that.

I realized something about God's family during this process. The Church has it's own sibling rivalry. How can we not? We are a race of polar opposites who make up the diverse parts of one Body, all with a slightly different function. Lots of misunderstandings and mistakes trip us up with each other. Some have impossible standards for others that God hasn't even placed on us. Others are barely out of the sin-darkened woods of the world. Not many of us have learned God's empathy or compassion; we are just like little children.

When we won't offer grace and mercy to one another and instead hold grudges and resist reconciliation, God's countenance falls. It's like He's pleading with us to stop. The Father looks upon us with patience and longsuffering of infinite proportions but also shows us the pain on His face. His Spirit give us a sense that all is not right between us. "First, go and be reconciled with your brother..." we hear it somewhere deep within. "But, Lord! How can I?"

At home, the tattler usually expects me to discipline the offending party. I've even been accused of favoritism because of my leniency or hesitation to rebuke. But I remind them that both people have a responsibility to reconcile in a fight. "What did you do?" I ask the tattler. It's a lot harder for them to come forward with that information. Sometimes it's hard for us to admit our sins to God, too.

God is changing us into the likeness of His Son through the means of His Spirit growing within us. This maturation brings unity and peace to the Body of Christ. As we allow God to do His work individually over months and years spent abiding in Him, we will find that we forgive easier. We reconcile easier. We long for peace and unity and love with our brethren even as we long for God Himself. Sibling rivalry in the home is similar to the immature state of God's children. We only need a safe place to learn and grow in Christ. We'll get there. Hope will keep us going.


Long Live Life

So much is happening in such a short time to our country. I can barely keep up with the changes our new president is making within his first couple of weeks in office. I'm not sure what most of them mean right now. But I did watch the speech our vice president made at the March for Life yesterday. The way he spoke about life was inspiring. I could hear the cheers of the crowd and thought of the children. One thing he said struck me in my heart and brought tears.

"The truth is being told. Compassion is overcoming convenience. And hope is defeating despair." -Vice President Mike Pence, 2017 March for Life

I dared to dream in that moment. I imagined abortion becoming illegal and men and women, because of that convenience gone, deciding to think twice about having sex with relative strangers. My dreams turned to God's face when He looks at our country. Instead of seeing rage and sadness in His eyes, I dreamt I saw forgiveness and mercy. Over fifty million lives lost in a silent slaughter since it became legal in the U.S. and God has heard every cry of every drop of blood shed. "Where is Abel your brother?" He may ask America. We are the pre-born's keepers.

Today I took my kids to a popular indoor play area to let off some energy. The place was packed with families celebrating January birthdays away from the freezing winter air. My youngest is almost three and my other kids helped me keep an eye on her as we weaved through the crowd to the play structures. But not every adult was as calm as I was in that place. The stress for some of them was apparent on their faces. There was hyper-vigilance, people reconsidering EVER coming to another indoor playground birthday party again, and wide-eyed parents watching with mild panic when kids that weren't theirs made bad choices on the slide. One lady looked at an approaching dad and said, "This is crazy! Like the seventh circle of hell! Let's never do this again." The statement was harsh and inaccurate in my opinion. But it made me wonder.

Why is a large group of children so hard for adults to handle nowadays? Could it be the value we place on them that changes our perspective? I watched the bustling and bursting emotions and energy blurring around me and today I remembered what a gift it is. I've had days when I need a break from all people under four feet tall, but today a new appreciation for life came back to me. Listening to Vice President Pence's speech and seeing the large crowd of people standing against the brutality of legalized murder reminded me of the truth. That life really is precious. Messy life, loud life, and chaotic life, too! All life is something to be respected and taken care of, human life being the most sacred.

Earlier today my youngest was taking a nap and I laid down next to her and started to cry. Her quiet face was just resting and dreaming. She's such a challenge and such a delight. She's two handfuls and twice as loving as I am. She was a surprise and is a picture of God's grace to me. Words like, "Amazing" and "Treasure" come to mind when I look at all of my kids. Also, "Beauty", "Light", "Precious"...

All children are just small, inexperienced and immature people. Their potential is both astounding and terrifying. Only God knows who they will be. But they are among us, running around our legs and climbing all over our lives. They won't be pushed aside or forgotten; they are built to get their needs met. They are loud and demanding and rowdy and desperately in need of love. Someday they will be in our position. They will take care of us when our bodies are old and dying. We need them more than we seem to remember; not only to work character into us by destroying our selfishness, but to teach us about our past and our future. Those are only a few reasons why they are so valuable to us bigger people.

Compassion needs to not only overcome but kill the idol of convenience. Compassion will win when the perceived need for convenience grows weaker. We, the peoples', dependence on medical professionals, technology, and entertainment threatens to strip away any sense of our God-given humanity. Do people know the value of what they're discarding? They may only know what their souls crave and what their bodies whine for. Their spirits are dead, like unfertilized eggs in the womb. Without the Holy Spirit's entrance, there is no conception of spiritual Life. How can they know the true value of human life, then?

My prayer is that God will have mercy on this country for the deception so many Americans have bought into. Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do. If there are enough Americans that will say sorry and be cleansed of the blood of their dead children, maybe the United States can be spared for a while longer.