Weakness is Attractive to God

Monteagle Mountain is the name given to a steep mountain grade of highway on Interstate 24 near Monteagle, Tennessee in the Appalachain Mountains.  It literally passes over the Cumberland Plateau.  Because it is part of the Cumberland Plateau, it is not technically considered to be a mountain, but certainly does feel and appear that way to anyone driving on it.  This stretch of road is part of the main route connecting Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta, Georgia. It is referenced as one of the most treacherous stretches of interstate in the United States and most especially during inclement weather.

Yesterday as I was driving over Monteagle, I noticed that on both sides of it there are three lanes of highway provided for motorists. The far right lane was labeled for trucks who are not able to continue up the “mountain” at the maximum speed of 55 miles per hour. I saw several trucks in that lane whose emergency flashers were on and flashing brightly to warn other motorists that they were moving at a very slow speed carrying a heavy load.  It was imperative for these trucks to pull all the way over, slow way down, and crawl  up through the steep ascent.

After these trucks reach the summit of the ascent, there is a vertical descent of 1, 161 ft. over a distance of 4.1 miles.  The grade for the eastbound is 6% for 4 1/2 miles. This eastbound descent has runaway truck ramps at both 1.9 miles and 3 miles from the summit.  Both runaway truck ramps are located on the left side of the road.  So trucks needing to use those runaway ramps must cross two eastbound lanes of traffic to do so.

I could not help but make some comparisons of that stretch of Interstate 24 to the lives of widows – especially during the first few years after the loss of their husbands. Whenever grief and shock first hits, a widow is forced to move way over in the far right lane.  Her load of grief and pain is so heavy as she is trying to carry it up a very steep ascent. She becomes so overwhelmed that her speed of travel slows to a complete crawl only because she knows that she cannot completely stop. She must keep going.  There are details and important issues that must be taken care of.  Her emergency flashers come on making everyone around her aware that she’s had to pull onto a different part of the highway – the very slowest lane.

Other people keep moving at their same rate of speed easily passing her.  Occasionally the widow looks up.  It’s hard for her to understand how others’ lives could possibly move on past her so quickly when she’s had to slow down to the slowest speed possible.

Some widows, who are not intentional about dealing with all that grief hurls at them, speed on up the mountain ascent and find themselves hurtling down the mountain descent as fast as they can. It seems so much easier to speed through their pain and try to shut down to it. Their thought is that grief is something that can be quickly dealt with. They want stay out of that far right lane because slowing down might cause them to really feel the load that they are carrying.

At some point this widow will find herself careening so fast through her grief that she loses control and is unable to get her life slowed down quickly enough to make a safe descent. She must frantically move across two lanes of traffic to use the runaway ramp on the far left side of the road. Not only does that ramp slow her speed, but it completely stops her.  This is what we call “hitting the wall”.

God finds the weakness of a widow attractive because this is the place over in that far right lane of life where He can really speak to us, comfort us, lead us, guide us, and direct us through all that we must face after the loss of our spouse.  Are you a new widow, a widow still in that far right lane driving slowly with your red emergency flashers flashing, or a widow that has willed herself to shut down to her journey through grief and is careening as fast as she can down the grief mountain heading toward the runaway ramp?

 

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One Last Hug for Children

One in seven American children experiences the death of a loved one before age 20, and few adults know how to help deal with the grief that follows.  ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP is a documentary set to debut on Monday, April 14th from 8:00-8:40 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on HBO or online at hbogo.com  I am hoping that once it debuts perhaps the entire documentary will be viewable on youtube.com

This grief camp, which is managed by Our House Grief Support Center, grief specialists and volunteers,  takes place at Camp Erin and is a three-day program that encourages grieving children ranging in age from 6-17 to share their feelings and memories of lost loves ones with their peers.  Camps take place in 43 locations nationwide.

“Besides the sadness that children feel when a loved one dies, there is also a sense of loneliness. ‘For how many of you guys is this the first time you’ve sat in a group of people your age and told someone?‘, asks counselor Chrissy, after a group of seven and eight year old girls share their stories.  Every girl raises her hand.”

Every aspect of the camp is geared towards sharing, support and healing.  One group ventures out on a grief hike in search of colorfully painted rocks which bear a different “feelings” word.

Happy memories are also encouraged – remembering the happy thoughts that were very good.

“On the last night of camp, director Lauren welcomes everyone to the Luminary Ceremony, which takes place by the pool, asking, ‘How many of you got to say goodbye to your person before they died? Put your hands up.’ Only a few raise hands.  Each child holds a lantern decorated with drawings and messages for the loved one who died, which illuminates the dark night as it floats over the water in a final farewell.”

ONE LAST HUG: THREE DAYS AT GRIEF CAMP is an unflinching documentary short film where grieving children of all ethnicities find comfort in one another to deal with their pain.  It illuminates the effects of death and grief on children.  Its inspiring and emotional journey is intimate, cathartic, and a testament to the healing power of friendship and support.

Here is a link to view the trailor:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTTpCmMCLLE

The Railroad of Life

Last night I became fascinated and intrigued with a television series called “Railroad Alaska”.  I spent several hours watching how the railroad masters take care of the railroad line between Wasilla and Anchorage.  It is their job to go ahead of the trains every day and look for any obstruction such as a broken track, avalanches, or even deadly icicles overhanging or blocking the railroad track.  These track crews are critical to keeping the train running because the railroad is the life blood of Alaska.

This particular railway runs through the more remote parts of Alaska where there are people who have chosen to life off the grid and away from society.  Their only way to get supplies, fuel, or any kind of medical help is to either walk or ride their snowmobiles several miles to flag down the train that goes by on certain days and only at certain times.  The train is their provider and their protector.

As I watched the special jobs that the railroad masters do and how very seriously and carefully they do their work, I couldn’t help but be reminded of how God goes ahead of us preparing our way as we follow Him.

Even though the railroad master’s job is to go ahead of the train to ensure it’s safety, the train engineer must always be on high alert during the course of the journey watching for moose on or near the tracks, sudden avalanches, people on snowmobiles and vehicles on or too near the tracks.

During the bitter winter months the Alaskan Railroad trains must go through long tunnels where water has seeped through the roof and sides creating perilous icicles weighing up to a ton that can easily cut through the metal of the engine like butter. This forces the engineer to slow down in each tunnel so the train can safely come out the other side.

There are times in our lives when we go through tunnels of unexpected circumstances or dangers that we have no control of.  We are forced to slow down as we remember that God has gone ahead of us to prepare the way and is also sitting in our engine riding along with us through the tunnel.

On the train tracks are sensors that will sound an alert inside the train letting the engineer know that the wheels of the train are too hot.  The engineer will then stop the train, find the hot wheel and throw snow on it to cool it down before proceeding.

On the train tracks of our lives God has given us the Holy Spirit to sound an alarm in our spirit whenever something is wrong in our lives or danger is ahead.  We have the choice to either acknowledge that warning, stop, check ourselves and do something about it or just barrel on ahead and ignore the warning.

As a widow, I need to be listening for any alerts going off in my spirit warning me that there is trouble.  This is one of the ways, I believe, that God acts as a widow’s husband.  He loves us enough to alert us when something is not right.

When I was a teenager, I heard an old 82 year old evangelist sing a song that made such an impression on me that I have never forgotten it.  The title of that song is “Life’s Railway to Heaven”.

Life is like a mountain railway.

With an engineer that’s brave;

We must make the run successful

From the cradle to the grave;

Watch the curves, the fills, the tunnels’

Never falter, never fail;

Keep your hands upon the throttle,

And your eyes upon the rail.

Refrain:

Blessed Savior, thou wilt guide us,

Till we reach that blissful shore,

Where the angels wait to join us

In Thy praise forevermore.

You will roll up grades of trial;

You will cross the bridge of strife;

See that Christ is your conductor

On this lightning train of life;

Always mindful of obstruction,

Do your duty, never fail;

Keep your eyes upon the throttle

And your eyes upon the rail.

You will often find obstructions,

Look for storms and wind and rain;

On a fill, or curve, or trestle

They will almost ditch your train;

Put your trust alone in Jesus,

Never falter, never fail;

Keep your hands upon the throttle,

And your eyes upon the rail.

As you roll across the trestle

Spanning Jordan’s swelling tide,

You behold the Union Depot

Into which your train will glide;

There you’ll meet the Sup’rintendent,

God the Father, God the Son,

With the hearty, joyous plaudit

“Weary Pilgrim, welcome home!”

Where are you on the railway of life?  Are you facing any unexpected circumstances or surprise obstructions?  Keep your hand upon the throttle and your eyes upon the rail.  God has gone ahead of you.  God is right there with you….even when you can’t feel His presence.