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Bruise hollows deepen my eye sockets. Despite attempts at heat-styling, my locks frazzle. I slouch before the mirror and marvel at the unkempt stranger glaring back at me.

When darkness surrounds the eyes, the body sinks into shadow. Matthew 6:23 piques my interest. Drained strength correlates with grey-shrouded lids the way focus aligns with soul health.

When I immerse myself in others’ suffering for a unrelieved stretch of months, their pain seeps into my heart and flesh. An intense gaze into evil’s poisonous spell upon this world, though studying it to devise a strategy to conquer it, can also burden my thoughts.

Heart, mind, soul, and body need divine rejuvenation. Spiritual retreats call me into the living waterfall of truth. Healthy focus requires adequate light to stave off the inky tide of soul-night. Praise and scripture cleanse me. Music, prayer, and meditation soak my mind with uplifting, scentatstic bubbles. God’s presence heals and renews my spirit and its perspective. 

He calls me to work for His glory, but at times He also calls me to rest in His arms. I cannot do one in exception to the other. 

I love You, O Lord, my strength. Illuminate my eyes and revitalize my soul, O Christ my Redeemer.

What’s your prayer of renewal this Holy Week? 

I glanced at the movie pass offer, displayed on a banner across the bloodmobile.

I just used my last movie pass with my son the other day. Maybe it’s a good day to give blood. I feel healthy, after all, and so much of our community struggles with a cold right now.

I strode into the chapel for worship and prayed for guidance. At the close of the service, I exited the double doors to face the blue bus again. I tilted my head and studied the option.

A whisper descended into my mind’s weak ear. “Not now. Go get a cup of coffee.”

I rounded the corner toward the social hall. I could get some coffee, stand available for a divine encounter, then proceed to the bloodmobile. Halfway down the sidewalk, a boy scout held a posterboard advertisement for a pancake breakfast.

Pancake breakfast? I don’t eat pancakes. I can’t possibly go in there and just get a cup of coffee without getting the scouts’ breakfast. There also won’t be many opportunities to bless or encourage others, since they’ll all be seated at tables with food I won’t be sharing.

I whirled around.

I can get some diet soda while donating blood. That should serve me just as well as coffee.

A nagging uncertainty pricked at my spirit as I marched across the street. I peered inside the bloodmobile at the empty benches.

“I must’ve come at just the right time.” I grinned at the phlebotomist and ascended the steps.

Paperwork and vitals breezed along without issue, but the ease ended there.

“Just a little prick, now,” the technician said.

Familiar with the process, I nodded. “Hope there’s not too much scar tissue. I’ve given blood from that arm many times.”

“Let me get someone to help.” He turned away.

I glanced at the clear tube extending from my arm. “That’s strange.”

The woman who took my paperwork elevated my elbow and jabbed the needle deep into my arm. I winced at the unfamiliar pain level. Needles never bothered me before. The clock ticked past eleven, each passing minute increasing my tardiness to teach the eleventh grade Sunday school class.

“Give the ball a squeeze every few seconds,” he reminded me. “You’re almost done.”

Squeezing sent a jolt through my arm. That’s never happened before. 

When the donation ended, he instructed me to raise my arm for a few seconds. He cleared me to lower it and another technician tried to apply a bandage. Profuse bleeding ensued, so she told me to raise my arm again. That’s never happened before, either.

At quarter past eleven, I hustled to the far building. My sole remaining student waved to me from the classroom across the hall. I joined the other class and apologized. Despite dizziness, I engaged the students with my usual passion for the Word.

I considered running errands after church, but a tug toward home persuaded me to put them off until later in the afternoon. I checked on my son’s cough, worked on some writing, and clipped coupons with no further dizziness.

On my way to the first of my errands, I processed my experience aloud. “I don’t think I’ll give blood again for a long time.”

I considered several shades of thread at the fabric store, but struggled to decide in the poor light. I took two in hand and grabbed a third.

The thought sifted into mind. “Don’t buy a third. Two is sufficient.”

I glanced at the spool. God? My stomach churned. I should go. I replaced the third spool and headed to the check out line.

Customer service hailed me. “I can take you over here.”

As she retrieved my change from the drawer, a tidal wave of nausea overwhelmed me. I knelt and rested my reeling forehead against the counter.

“Do you need a chair?” Three associates rushed from behind the customer service desk.

“Yes, that’d be good. I’m just dizzy all of a sudden…”

“Sit up.”

“Have some chocolate…some Coke…”

I sipped the cola. My gullet resisted the tiny square of candy. “I feel sick…”

A trash can appeared beside the chair. I leaned my head into a dream…things to do…

A crowd of faces hemmed in the fluorescent glare. Linoleum chilled through my tee shirt into my spine and ribs. How did I end up on the floor?

“Are you all right?” A man smiled down at me. “Her color’s looking a bit better now.”

“The ambulance is on its way,” an associate said.

After the EMTs completed their review, my husband arrived from work to support me through the parking lot and drive me home. My son later helped retrieve my car. I spent the unsteady evening in bed.

My failure to tune into the Spirit cost time and energy for countless others. I felt silly and weak, a reminder of my utter dependence on higher strength. Each minor choice carries an  infinite stream of potential contingencies, and God alone foresees them all. When I am tempted to trust my own understanding, I pray His Spirit will bring my public fall to mind. For in my weakness, I must listen.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body
and nourishment to your bones.” (Proverbs 3:5-8)

May the Lord reward my husband, the anonymous doctor who volunteered his attention, the kind associates at JoAnn’s Fabrics, and Hillsborough County Fire Rescue from His richest treasures of abundant blessings.

Sunset Gospel.

Amber, coral, and rosy rays glimmer along the horizon. The cerulean backsdrop deepens to brilliant sapphire hue as the day slips out of sight. Each sunset draws a fresh sigh, as I contemplate its reflection of divine grace.

God designed our days’ end with a visual poem of crimson-streaked light. Whatever befell you in these hours, He declares, “It is finished.” The beauty of dusk cools our skin and hushes our trepidation. We can only work thus far, and then He tucks the day into the past and reminds us of His sovereignty. We can watch the masterpiece unfold across the sky like a Creator’s promise for a new day coming.

The setting of light onto earth’s curved horizon reminds me of an ancient, blood-soaked hill.  Our Redeemer hung against the sky as a sacrifice to end our strife. Darkness engulfed the earth and chilled his entombed body. Like the resurrection joy, dawn cannot break until the former day has been put behind us.

I love the divine story sunsets tell, since He offers the only happy ending to last forever after. If you’re longing for a delightful tale, perhaps you’ll join me at the window this evening and watch the Lord weave inspiration with light.

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