I am blessed.
Still dressed in my pajamas and an old blue hooded fleece jacket, aka my morning robe, and wearing worn and rundown looking Ugg slippers, a gift from many Christmas's ago, I left the safety of my home to retrieve the morning paper buried and nearly hidden under three inches of snow. Before I bent down to pick-up the paper, my eyes scanned the quiet, snow covered, peaceful looking place where I live.
This world has such beauty.
Then my mind was again assailed by the events of the previous day.
This world has such brokenness.
The day after Thanksgiving, I'd been tempted to stay home and read and write all day. I wanted to avoid all places where shoppers would be frequenting. An early morning phone call to a dear friend ended by us making plans to meet in an hour at the health club so we could do water aerobics together.
The warm water in the therapy pool provided us with the perfect place to move our achy joints and catch up with each other on our latest news and thoughts about life. After class we headed to the hot tub for more conversation while soaking to ease those same achy joints.
Showered and dressed, as we headed to the front door together to leave the club, still talking and laughing, we decided we weren't done visiting yet, so we headed to the comfortable looking couch in the lounge area.
Not long after we'd situated ourselves for a bit more conversation, the instructor for our Monday Zumba Gold class leaned over to ask us if we'd heard the news of the shooting yet. "What shooting?" "There's an active shooter on Fillmore," she said. "Where on Fillmore?" I asked? I looked up at the television screen overhead, and saw the news crawl across the bottom of screen. "Not again? Here? We have a mass shooting here today???" Then, my phone rang. It was my sister in San Diego. "Where are you? Are you ok?" She'd just seen the news of the shooting.
Girlfriend time and conversation ended abruptly with this sobering news. Quite honestly, I didn't didn't want to remain in a public place at such a time. My thoughts went to Columbine, and 9/11. I'd been in my classroom and responsible for lives of my students when the news of these senseless acts of violence occurred. Then there was the time a shooter went into a local church and started shooting. I remembered being in my kitchen on Sunday morning when I heard that news. I was at home in my kitchen when I heard of the Aurora Theater shootings. I'd been mopping the floor in the laundry room when I heard of Sandy Hook. Now, I was sitting and enjoying the company of a dear friend at our health club when our feelings peace and safety were sent flying end over end. "No place is safe." I fought thinking those thoughts. "Has the world gone completely crazy?"
We decided to head home. It was snowing quite hard as I headed out of the door. I checked my phone for the latest news on Facebook. My cousin lives near the place where the shooting was taking place. I called her to find out what was going on. I wanted to see if my access to home would be blocked since I live about eight miles from the shooting. She told me which streets were blocked and caught me up on the news that was being broadcast on live television. It appears the shooter was targeting the Planned Parenthood building located near a very busy, one of the busiest, intersection in Colorado Springs. There is a large shopping area across the parking lot from the PP building that houses small shops and large grocery store where I most often do my grocery shopping. Next to the PP building is a medical building where I have visited a gifted neurological doctor. Jim has gone to the eye doctor in that same building.
As the day and evening progressed, we'd learned that three individuals, one a police officer had been killed in the shooting spree. Nine people were injured. Five of the injured are police officers. The shooter had surrendered. He was in custody.
By the time I went to bed last night, I'd learned that the officer killed was a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police officer. He responded to the call of a shooting by leaving the campus and going to assist his fellow officers across town. He was a former ice skating champion and devoted husband and father. He was also a devout Christian, an elder in his church, a song leader, and a teacher of the Bible. He showed valor and bravery as he went to do battle with a man intent on doing bodily harm to whomever stood in his way of accomplishing what ever his senseless mission might have been.
My heart is broken because of this senseless tragedy that occurred in my hometown. I, like so many others, try to make sense of it all. No one can make sense of those actions that are senseless. I know that, but human nature wants me to try to make sense out of the darkness that fills the souls of those whom participate in such acts of violence.
Last night, I prayed for those harmed in the attacks before I drifted off to sleep. I prayed for the wife and children of the slain officer. I prayed for the families of the two other victim killed in the attack. I prayed for those who suddenly found themselves victims of this tragedy just because they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I then prayed for my ninety-nine year old mother. She'd sounded terrible when I'd called her earlier in the day. She had a chest cold. I called her again in the evening and lectured her about not ignoring her symptoms and urged her to get medical care if she became worse. As I prayed for her, I questioned why she had to be exposed to such violence when she turned on her television and saw what was occurring in the place where she grown up and raised her family.
This morning I read the morning news, which not good; it only gave more details about yesterday's insanity. I then called to check on Mother. She sounded much better and was quite chipper as she said, "Good morning." I thanked God for answered prayer. We talked about the news. We talked of the beauty of the snow. We talked about the brokenness of this world. We ended our conversation by discussing the new shoots of growth coming from our orchids.
Yes, even on a day of cold, gloom, and sorrow, there is still hope for new beginnings and even future beautiful blossoms,
I think as I check on the orchid in dining room window. It is good to discuss such things with my mother, the one with such a green thumb, who continues to teach me much on life, faith, and gardening even on the darkest of days.
Yes, thankfully, I have my mother on days such as today to ground me and remind me of fundamental truths about life. She gets up every morning and checks to see what happened outside while she was sleeping before she makes her one cup of coffee, fries her bacon and eggs, and makes a piece of toast. She reads her morning devotional and Bible passage before she reads the newspaper.
She's seen much in her century of life. Much. She is connected to the world and interested in it. I think that is why she is still going strong. She tends to her occasional chest colds, but rarely gets sick. I learn so much from watching her as she thrives in her aging process. Even though she will be 100 in a little over a half of a year from now, I can't bring myself to describe her as old. She trusts the Lord for each day that she is given. In the end, despite the evil all around us, she continues to trust in the goodness of the Lord.
I ponder the dichotomy of the world in which we live after I hang up from my morning talk with Mother.
We have been placed in a world of great beauty, but we have also been placed in a very broken world. In the brokenness that surrounds me, I pray I will not turn to bitterness or fear.
It seems everyone wants to have a platform these days to spew forth whatever hatred, rancor, and division fills their hearts. Acts of violence fills our newspapers, news feeds on the computer, and the daily evening news. We are seeing insanity at every turn.
I wonder what people group will be the hated other this week. Last week it was the Syrian refugees we were all supposed to hate and fear. Before that, we were told to hate the illegal immigrants from Mexico. Before that it was those publicly speaking out against the war in Iraq whom were target for hate attacks. We constantly judge each other and attack each other in the media and even in small groups who gather around dinner tables to celebrate Thanksgiving, or even in our church meetings, or school buildings. There seems to be no sensible discussion of the events and problems of our day. Does our generation not know how to discuss differences of opinion?
This week, will it be that we are told to hate the so called religious fanatics that picket against abortion? Never mind that we don't know whether or not the shooter in Colorado Springs was a religious fanatic or not. His name has already been linked to those who picket against abortion in the daily news as if he is one of those people.
Today, I will continue to seek understanding and grace. I will lift my eyes unto the hills, gazing at my beloved Pikes Peak, the mountain that lived at the end of the street where I was born. When I look at this peak, it will be the same solid mountain that lived at the end of the street where I grew-up. Pikes Peak, my mountain, still lives at the end of the street where senseless violence killed three innocent people on Halloween. This purple mountain majesty, on a day when it was shrouded and hidden behind dark clouds, was still standing when it provided the backdrop for a place where incomprehensible terror and mayhem left a stain of blood from a brave police officer, a man of God, on cold snow covered concrete on a day after the day when when we gather to give thanks for all of our blessings.
Today, when I lift my eyes unto the hills, I will see the beauty of the place where I live, but I will also see our shattered broken world at the feet of America's mountain.
Despite the brokenness, my hope for the future is not shattered. That mountain, and all the others surrounding it, will still be standing long after I have gone. If, for some reason, the mountains should be moved, if that which seems impossible should happen, I will continue to hope. I will continue to hope because I trust in the One the Psalmist wrote about in one of my favorite Psalms:
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the Lord,
which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
he that keepth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is they keeper:
the Lord is thy shade upon they right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve they soul.
The Lord shall preserve thy going out and they coming in from this time forth,
and even for evermore.
I know of no way to live in this place of beauty and brokenness except by trusting in the One who made the world and continues to hold it together even as it seems that all sanity and peace is being shattering and tossed in all directions.