You’ve Got Mail #20

Dear Jahar,

I want to talk to you about words spoken over us.

I saw a portrait of Picasso on the cover of National Geographic in the grocery store yesterday. Along with his likeness was the following quote:

“My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”

Imagine having a mother who saw greatness in you, who believed in you enough to speak words like that over you.

My mother spoke words over me too. She said… well, no need to go down that road again. I remember her words but what’s more important is, I have forgiven her for them – though she has never asked me to. Growing up in our house, apologies were neither frequent nor heartfelt.

And now words are beginning to fail her. Memories too. She has dementia and the days I have always dreaded are upon me. Days many others have experienced with an aging parent. And now it is my turn.

Her hearing is bad as well and phone calls are difficult. They no longer comfort me. There is not much to talk about. I hang up sadder than when I dialed.  The woman who became my rock through job loss, homelessness, depression and cancer now needs me to be strong for her.

I tried making a list of topics to discuss with mom that went beyond the weather and how she is feeling today. I told her President Trump was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. I told her about the Kentucky Derby, that the favorite, Justify, won again; that he won the Preakness yesterday as well. Maybe we’ll have another Triple Crown winner this year. Horse racing was a familiar part of my childhood experience. Mom was the private secretary to a millionaire who owned winning race horses.

Now she can’t remember from day to day how to work the TV remote so changing channels is an issue and she missed both races. She couldn’t understand the words “Nobel Peace Prize” so I gave up and didn’t bother trying to tell her what President Trump had done that got him nominated. I was sure that topic would be good for at least a couple minutes of airtime; we used to talk politics and current events for an hour on our weekly Saturday phone calls…

I miss those days.

I want to go home, but my present circumstances keep me here in Florida, though, for me, it is no longer the happiest place on earth. I suspect nowhere will be while I walk through this valley with my mom…

I’m sure you can relate to all this because of the cruel and unjustifiable SAMs that prevent you from discussing certain topics with your parents. The degree of meanness our government was willing to go to in order to make you suffer as much as possible, all the while knowing you are innocent, shows what kind of monsters control our judicial system on so many levels. One does not have to be in Guantanamo to be subject to torture… How I long for the day God makes this all up to you like He did Job.

I’m sitting here writing this letter, beautiful classical piano music playing in the background, the cat sleeping next to me. It’s really hot and sunny today and I need to walk to the grocery again. Thank God I love walking. I am getting a good tan.

Sometimes when the depression was at its worst, mom and I would talk on the phone. She’d tell me little details like that about the weather and what she was doing around the condo. Our conversations created pictures in my mind that I held onto like a life raft, keeping my head above water for one more day.

I hope that maybe my letters do the same for you.

As my mom slowly slips away from me, I’ve been reflecting about all the family, friends and acquaintances who have dropped out of my life for no apparent reason over the years. Being on disability with no money and no car leaves me with a lot of time on my hands and a lot of hours to fill each day.

Some people just got too busy for friendship, I guess. It seems people would rather pursue achievement and money to buy more stuff than spend their time nurturing quality relationships with other people. Marriages have certainly failed for that reason. So have churches. And friendships. Most people just don’t make time for more than a quick text, email or “hi, how are you” in passing anymore. As long as you are still “liking” their pictures and posts on Twitter and Facebook they are satisfied the relationship is still intact.

Thinking about all this soon brought about strong feelings of sadness. Loneliness.  It was then that the Lord began to remind me of certain scriptures, giving me just a few words of each one so I would look them up to see what He was saying.

I heard “like one from whom men hid their face,” and looked it up to find this that was written about Jesus:

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hid their face. He was despised and we did not esteem him.  Isaiah 53:3

I can imagine Jesus walking down the streets of Nazareth and men turning away when they saw Him coming… Jesus knew they did that of course, and He felt the pain of their rejection deeply. Then died for them anyway. What amazing love that took!

I heard “my acquaintances are in darkness” and looked it up to find that David, who the Lord inspired to write the Book of Psalms, talked about this topic. A lot.

You have removed my acquaintances far from me; you have made me an object of loathing to them; I am shut up and cannot go out.  You have removed lover and friend far from me; my acquaintances are in darkness.  Psalm 88: 8, 18

Because of all my adversaries, I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances. Those who see me in the street flee from me.  Psalm 31:11

My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague; and my kinsmen stand afar off.  Psalm 38:11

When I read the part where David said “I am shut up and cannot go out” I was stunned! You and I can certainly relate to that. Sometimes I walk the two miles to the grocery store for just one item – if I have the money. The brief conversation I might have with a clerk or cashier might be the only conversation I have with another human all day. Or all week.

When I think about how you can’t even do that… The anguish I feel for you… There are no words. That is why I am certain you have already met Jesus. Only a loving, life-giving relationship with Jesus could be sustaining you in that hellish nightmare of a place they have you in.

I also found this verse in the Book of Job:

He has removed my brothers far from me, and my acquaintances are completely estranged from me.  Job 19:13

And then it hit me why God had led me to find all these verses. Jesus… King David… Job…  They all suffered greatly and overcame. They all emerged victorious from their terrible trials.

And so shall we Jahar. So shall we!

When I read in the Bible how Peter and Paul sang songs when they were in chains in a Roman jail after being beaten, I wondered “What song could I possibly sing in such terrible circumstances that would give me courage and comfort?”

I found the song that answers that question and when I heard it for the first time, I knew, so I memorized the words. One does not have access to a playlist in a jail cell…

Last week, around 3am, I suddenly awoke and found myself unable to stop thinking about mom. Consumed with fear, sadness, despair and an overwhelming sense of being alone in this world, I sat up and stared into the darkness. I wanted to pray but the words wouldn’t come.

And suddenly I remembered that song…

I put all my hope on the truth of Your promise

And I steady my heart on the ground of Your goodness

When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name

And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

You are good to me, good to me

You are good to me…

I couldn’t sing. I had to be quiet or I’d wake that sweet, crazy nocturnal cat I’ve adopted. She’s so high energy at night she has to sleep in another room behind closed doors. And if she hears me get up at night she starts crying to be let out with me.

So I let the melody play in my mind and silently mouthed the words. And you know what? It helped! It really did. I was suddenly able to bear the pain. And eventually, as I continued through the entire song once, then twice, comfort came. And with comfort came sleep.

And I lift my eyes to the hills where my help is found

And Your voice fills the night, raise my head up to hear the sound

When the fires burn all around me, I will praise You, my God

And the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy

Because You are good to me, good to me

You are good to me, good to me

You are good to me…

So this song has been tested; singing it in faith, like a prayer, can dispel the deepest sorrow, overcome the deepest darkness. One day, I hope to teach it to you.

He is good to all those who wait for Him, to all those who trust in His lovingkindness. Let your heart take courage, Jahar. And wait for the Lord. He will yet save you.
















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