Several times a week I go to a chiropractor. Although he adjusts my back and neck, he focuses equally on increasing the range of motion in my right arm. A number of years ago I sustained injury to my wrist and elbow due to a bad accident. The damages to my joints limited my arm from fully extending and from rotating to turn palm up or palm down. As time has passed, the nerves in my arm and hand have begun to cause pain and numbness. The goal of weekly therapy is to free pinched nerves, release me from discomfort, and gain mobility in my arm.
To this end, I endure pain. Each time I enter the doctor’s office for treatment, I know that the therapy will hurt. He presses his thumb (or some blunted, plastic tool) deep into my muscle and then progressively moves down my forearm to the wrist. I wince. I grimace. Occasionally, I slightly whimper. He is not deterred. He finds the next sore spot and repeats the pressing, pushing, pulling, forcing, twisting thing he does.
After several moments of bruise-generating force (okay, not actually bruising), he begins to work on my range of motion. At this point, I have to push against his resistance. Just when I can win our arm wrestling match, he shows me his true strength and I hit a new level of – you guessed it – pain. At the end of the therapy, he tells me that we have gained a degree. Really? A degree? An unobservable, unnoticeable inconspicuous degree?
Who wants to advance success by degrees? Not me! I want increments much larger and quicker than that. However, an honest look at reality testifies that life moves more frequently in small measurements than large ones. Children grow one day at a time; knowledge is gained fact by fact; skills are perfected by practice after practice.
The Bible tells the story of Abraham, a man to whom God had promised that he would be the progenitor of a nation and the recipient of a vast land. His name even meant father of a multitude, but he had no children. Apparently, full range of motion or full extension of his life was, at least in part, to raise a family. God began Abraham’s stretching therapy. Resistance was applied. How? Abraham was old and his wife was barren. He had to apply the strength of what he was destined to be against his obstacles and limitations.
He advanced toward his future just like we do – one degree at a time. He had one nephew but they parted ways. He went through famine and almost lost his wife. He finally had a son through a midwife, but God required that son be sent away. Although it appeared as though he was making no progress, he was increasing his range of motion, which was verified when he eventually gave birth to his promised son and produced the lineage that would lead to the Christ.
Whether the name is Abraham, Patti, Joe, or Jean and whether we are speaking of physical recovery or spiritual destiny, endurance and patience must be applied to resistance. Without the sometimes painful but steady advancement of one degree at a time, we could fail to achieve the full range of what God has destined us to be.
Mid-June is upon us and summer is in full swing. One thing that summer means for my family is our vacation to Florida. When our children were small, we drove to the sunshine state for time at the beach and time in Orlando at theme parks. Now that the children are grown with children of their own, we still drive to the sunshine state for time at the beach and time in Orlando at the theme parks. The whole gang goes.
This year was no exception. We piled into rented housing, shared beds and bathrooms, and cooked gigantic quantities of food. We spent the days in the pool or at a beach. As always, there was one day in which we went to see some aspect of the Fantasy World created around Mickey Mouse. We took in the beauty of man’s imagination and the glory of God’s creation. We vacationed. We played. We lived and laughed together.
Each day could have been spoiled if we had allowed it to be. Babies are quite unpredictable; so we usually had one or another of them crabby, hungry, sleepy, or just plain mean. And then there was the combination of many adults weighing in on the day’s activities, which always generates many opinions. One or another of them (me excluded, of course) was always crabby, hungry, sleepy, or just plain mean. And, as with every other year, Fantasy World morphed into Reality World.
In spite of all the amenities that Florida offers, the real blessings of any of our vacations were never generated by the hype, the make-believe, the high-priced ticket, or the better-than-ordinary environment. The real blessings always came from the same things we have from day to day: the people we have in our worlds; the joy we receive from those relationships; the adventures we encounter in everyday life.
I used to dream of the day when my real world would morph into the fantasy. My prince would come; my ship would land in port; my pot of gold would be found at the rainbow’s end. Tomorrow would bring to me that long-awaited world of perfection. From a mindset like that, my day to day was something to be tolerated until the goal of the fairy tale was attained. Sadly, such a belief caused me to miss many of the joys right before me in pursuit of that illusive, ultimate joy.
Perhaps it was aging, maybe it was just living, and possibly a good dose of the Scriptures have all contributed to the change in my philosophy. I have grown to realize that joy must be found in what is at hand. The treasure must be unearthed from the ordinary and the fun must be created in the midst of the mundane.
The road trip to the sunshine state transpired again this summer as it has in so many years gone by. The craziness of many big personalities gathered in Orlando. Was it perfect? No. Was it fantasy? Hardly. Any chance it was the ultimate dream? No way.
Was it wonderful? Yes. Was it joyful? Absolutely. Was it fun? Surely. Vacation was living each day surrounded by what that day brought and finding the best in every situation. When the two weeks ended, I returned home to the daily routine of life, which is living each day surrounded by what that day brings and finding the best in every situation.
Perhaps Reality World can morph into the Fantasy World, after all!
Torrents of rain assailed the car. It seemed to come in sheets and in intervals. Part of the time, the bombarding would create such a thick veil of water that we could not see the car in front of us. Then a temporary lull would come causing us to think that perhaps the worst was behind. However, within moments the flood would begin again. As we traveled along Interstate 75 heading toward Clearwater, Florida we were experiencing the rains accompanying the first hurricane of the 2018 summer season. The weather report had forecast the rains, but telling us what to expect and experiencing the deluge were two entirely different things.
Inside the car, the atmosphere was also cloud-covered. Several days before, we had received a phone call from our sister-in-law that our niece had been tragically killed in an automobile accident. This vibrant, life-loving, beautiful 21-year old had just completed an evening shift and was heading home from work when she encountered a dump truck stopped on the interstate. Unable to break in time, she ran into the back of the vehicle. She was pronounced dead on the scene.
A police officer had come to our sister-in-law’s home in the midnight hours to bring her the news – news of hurricane force. Early the next morning, the rest of the family was informed. We were all immediately aware that there was no route of evacuation, no running from the storm. Whirlwinds of thoughts swirled in our minds as we rehearsed memories of days gone by. Our conversations turned to how to anchor down and prepare. Above all, we focused upon how to help our sister-in-law find shelter in the eye of the storm.
After the arrangements were finalized, we started our two-day trek from Illinois to Florida. We drove thirteen hours the first day and reserved the final four hours for the morning of the funeral. The early morning, storm-blitzed travel seemed to testify of the unsolicited event, the out-of-time moment in time, and the tumult of emotions. Nothing inside or outside of the car was like the ordinary climate of life. We were in the midst of a storm.
The service was being held in an Assembly of God church. We arrived about the same time as other family members – faces not seen for years, necks not hugged for too-long, kisses awaiting a reunion – these were exchanged. And all the while, the casket awaited us at the altar of the church. After only moments of the reuniting, our focus changed to the one who was separating. We had come together to say our good-bye.
Storms – who wants them? Who can avoid them? No one! The answer is that certainly no one can so protect his or her life as to circumvent every storm. Somewhere, sometime, or somehow every life will be touched by a storm. However, there is perhaps an even more appropriate question. Can we weather the storm? Have we made any preparations just in case hurricane season brings untoward events in our direction?
Our sister-in-law and our niece had been wise. Each had individually and in unity with one another they had known a life of grace because of Jesus Christ. They had accepted their Savior’s love and forgiveness. They lived for Him and planned to inherit an eternity in His presence. The funeral service stilled the storm, calmed the emotions, silenced the fear of the unknown. Songs, testimonies, reading of the scripture, and prayers were heard above the winds on that stormy day in Florida. Tears may yet flow, but the hurricane-level waters have passed. Rest in peace, dear Marissa.