Labor Day Shadows

 

Labor Day for most is a day of celebration with a day-off relaxing, parades, and a barbecue.   The day was established  20 years after the civil war, a war intended to end slavery because laborers were being treated like slaves and some were dying from the conditions.  But, for this Average Joe Labor Day has a different ring.   One year ago on Labor Day, I had a massive stroke.  Miraculously I not only survived but have no residuals that most stroke victims have following them around the rest of their life.  Yet, like a shadow,  striking events that happen in our lives tend to stick with us forever.  One year later I take to the keyboard to bare my soul of Labor Day Shadows. 

The last thing I ever dreamed of for my recognition list was being known as ‘the guy who survived a stroke.’   People whom I know and run into on the street often bring up the topic as the apparent highlight of my life.   I’d rather be known as a friendly guy, a successful businessman, a positive light, a family man, a great volunteer, or anything but a lucky sap who shouldn’t be alive.  

A reminder of the theme was extended a day ago during a doctor’s office.   The reward of getting a clean bill of health from both my cardiologists and D.O. (thank you God!)  was I got to visit the gastroenterologist for a colonoscopy pre-exam.   How exciting to discuss the ins and outs of having a tube shove, oops, tmi.   The doctor whom I never met had reviewed all my records and made the same statement I have heard from about a dozen doctors, ‘wow, it is not often that I get to meet a walking miracle.’   Like me, he must have known I have a sense of humor and added, ‘I hope I don’t screw it up for you with this fun procedure.’    All jokes aside I am extremely grateful to be here, and always have been.  But to have the Labor Day salvation shadow following me around everywhere was not in my plans.

Did you ever stop to think why is it that when people die what becomes the main topic about them thereafter is – how they died?  The shadow of death should not be the main topic when discussing a person but it tends to be.   If it was a tragic ending, (such as Princess Diana as a recent topic of conversation) those close to them or in the media know the date of that person’s passing.  Many artists, writers, and musicians have their works more recognized after they are gone rather than while they are alive.  I am quite certain my not-viral blog will be read much more after I am gone than it is now.  That should not be too hard of a feat to accomplish based on my WordPress statistics.  But think about how many people became way more well-known after death than before.   

Next, we remember people for their work or profession and how well they performed.   We labor whether as a window washer on a skyscraper risking our lives or pecking on a keyboard in the safe work-at-home environment.  Artists and athletes, although they seemingly have more fun, labor.  Soldiers in the Army and missionaries overseas, labor.    Sadly, we tend to see working and laboring as a dark shadow. 

Instead, Labor Day indeed is a day worth celebrating.   It was the fast response of the firemen and ambulance Emt’s that rushed me to the hospital in an emergency.   It was the skilled hands of the nurses and hospital workers that had the IV’s plucked in my arms for the doctors to quickly administer a TPA and thrombectomy to remove the stroke-causing clot.   The paid and trained helicopter pilots flew me to the pad on top of a hospital built by the construction workers.  The professors taught, the scientists and engineers used their brains and skills to develop procedures and equipment, all the garments were made by workers.  Every laborer is a necessity to what keeps us alive in a perfectly designed system.   Labor is a good thing.  Really Joe, come on!

Most everyone I believe has heard the famous Psalm 23 from the Bible which starts with “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.   He makes me to lie down in green pastures;” ...

Some translations say He lets me lie down in green pastures, sort of a choice to lay down and rest.   When you take a walk yourself, in reality, as it says in a later portion of the same quote Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil;  For You are with me;” –  you think deeply about the meaning of death. It is one thing to attend a funeral and think about the poor sap in the coffin.  It indeed causes you to think about the subject, but it is much more when you have that near-death experience.  In such circumstances, you realize that death is not a choice.  Perhaps,  God allots a taste of that shadow and makes us lie down like in a green pasture staring up at the vast universe.   Then, one is left with no choice but to think deeply.  

For most of us this Labor Day weekend or day after the parades and barbecues and football games allows us to take the time that the holiday lets us lie down and appreciate the life and I guess job that we have.  For those and others who work on Labor Day and are in a must-work position, I hope you have another free day off (that hopefully, a Scrooge did not take away from you) to do the same.  You never know when that time will come when you are made to lie down permanently in that shadow.  Enjoy this time on earth while you are able!

As usual, this is not the end of this story.   I have not written for a while as I have taken the time for some summer rest while quietly laboring on a few projects like painting ceilings at home and helping some people in places where needed.  My last series was on the not-so-popular topic of the criminal justice system and the death penalty.  That death thing just has followed around and I can’t shake off the shadow.   I dig deeper into an even less popular topic of why we work and labor.  If not interested have a wonderful labor day weekend (or I hope you had one if reading this past the post date)  OR read on to part II …..

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The past year from Labor day to Labor day has had more than the simple near-ending of my life.  I honestly joke about it as nothing worthy of having a new label as the guy who ‘suffered’ a stroke.  In my eyes other than dealing with the absurdity of the billing and inept insurance system of the E.R. visit – it was minor as I felt great before it happened and do now as well.

Meanwhile, we have watched a war break out between two countries to date killing an estimated 150,000 between the two sides. (because both countries have lying leaders, the numbers are impossible to know at this stage)  We do know nearly 7 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes permanently, which topped the travesty few talk about post what happened in Syria and Venezuela anymore.  The world economy with inflation leaves us on the verge of a total collapse.  We who labor are supporting a $31 trillion debt while some collect wages for zero work and have better healthcare for free than those who pay out tens of thousands for high deductible healthcare.  Meanwhile, some top executives have so much money to burn they build rocket ships and fly them into space for pleasure.  And, I dare not discuss the deceit that exists in our governments, justice system, and media.

It is easy to allow our minds to be taken over by disdain towards a world out of control.  While lying down in that green pasture the Lord led me to Psalm 73 “They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil; in their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. And so the people are dismayed and confused, drinking in all their words. “What does God know?” they ask. “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?” Look at these wicked people— enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.”  “Did I keep my heart pure for nothing? Did I keep myself innocent for no reason? I get nothing but trouble all day long; every morning brings me pain. If I had really spoken this way to others, I would have been a traitor to your people. So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper. But what a difficult task it is!”   Psalms 73:6-16 NLT

The heart of all that is happening in this world for this believer in the Almighty God can sometimes lead to this reality:   “Then I realized that my heart was bitter, and I was all torn up inside.”   Psalms 73:21 NLT  

But when we go into and understand the truth –  “Then I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. Truly, you put them on a slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.  73:17  we realize that  “I was so foolish and ignorant— I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you. Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.”    Psalms 73:22-24 NLT  

So did God let me lie down to pull out my hard feelings the day I wrote that in my diary or did He make me?   Maybe for some digging down into an inner depression comes easy.  For us who have a tendency to be workaholics (yes even in retirement)  God needs to make us lie down and touch the chord of despair.  But, since He is not a controller of us He may let some things happen to force us to admit our attitudes have gone astray. 

For me though, although the Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos’, and Mark Zuckerburg’s of the world bother me as I believe they are master controllers of man, my real sway of dismay comes from fellow believers.  Those whom Jesus instructs us to forgive seven times seven times seventy times.  It hurts my heart, as I believe it does God’s, that laborers have gone to sleep.  That’s the real source of all of our problems, a long term drop off that has more than caught up to us.

A very real Labor Day applicable verse is: “And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”   Luke 10:2 NASB1995

We seemingly have lots of people praying if you look on social media you see those praying hands symbols all over.  So it’s clear, isn’t it?  We have lots of people praying for things to stop, or praying for things to be corrected, or for wicked leaders to be halted, or for revival, or for a rule to change.  In one cause dear to my heart on the pro-life movement some all wear the same colored t-shirt fighting against a cause and recruit heavily for rally attendees and we do it in the name of Luke 10:2 for more laborers.  I have participated in the background for years and believe in the cause.  A win seemingly took place for prayer warriors as Roe v Wade was overturned.  Now we can ‘make‘ people not have an abortion.  All that money and prayer to fight a law and let the clinics know they are bad people. 

We seem to forget the laws are already written in The book that few follow.  Quite simply, the Sixth commandment says not to kill.  Yet in our country, we have killed 65 million supposedly only because we ‘let them‘ do it.  I don’t believe that will solve the root of the problem anymore than banning alcohol or guns will stop their abuse.  Perhaps if the labor efforts put in weekly marches were instead spent leading people to Jesus one-on-one and teaching His ways then the desired results would diminish what is happening on the streets.

Not to put down prayer by any means as it is the heartbeat of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit that our lives as believers are centered on our spending time in God’s presence.  Spending time talking to Him is our most important task, no doubt.  But, Luke 10:2 is surrounded by 10:1 and 10:3 where some have missed the context of ‘praying for laborers’.

We read; “The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”  Luke 10:1-3 NLT

Before reading verse 10:2 we see Jesus was talking to the actual laborers.  They were trained disciples being sent out in pairs to deliver a message about Jesus coming.  He told them the doers to ask for more doers as there were few.  Our job as Christians is to deliver the message that Jesus is coming back and the Good News of salvation, and to make more laborers to deliver the same message.  It is our #2 purpose (#1 is worshipping God).  

In the verse after 10:2 He said He was sending them out as lambs among wolves.   Today’s version of Christianity says be nice to everyone and don’t make waves.  Yes, we are to be nice, but understand the wolves will be your enemies if you tell them they are on that “slippery path and send them sliding over the cliff to destructionas mentioned in Psalm 73.

That shadow of death topic comes from the verse mentioned earlier, it says “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”     Psalms 23:4 NKJV  

I have been singing along with this song by Shane and Shane from a playlist of songs on my Youtube channel called Psalms 21st Century It is sobering yet motivating, well worth a click while reading this post.

I recently was invited to revisit a place I spent 18 months in a constant state of walking through the shadow of death every hour of the day at the Help Pregnancy Center in Monroe, NC.   We all, of course, know the evils of abortion and if you have set your foot in the same place where people are considering killing their own child you can feel the devils’ wolves seeking to devour you.  You can almost see the blood flowing from the teeth of the haters as they attack anyone against their view of ‘pro-choice.   But this visit was to share in the filming of a testimony of a victorious situation about a couple with twins who turned two years old.   Helping families from pre-birth and further for many years after is the true spirit of what we all hope to have happen.   In this case they were doing well and wanted to tell others about it. Praise to God for the victory.

Little is it known though in an HPC we oft felt the pain of seeing two smiling faces that have been counseled and heard the joy of the message of life and hope and decided to carry the gift of God’s Grace, the miracle of giving birth.  My office was right next to the ultrasound room.  I would often have a pre-meeting with them and then watch them walk over to see their baby’s heartbeat.  Only to then greet them in the hallway as both he and she had tears in their eyes from the news of the devil taking the life of their miracle.  Sometimes I would have the opportunity to share in their grief and counsel with the gentle hand of the Lord to comfort them.  

At other times, they would just walk by too broken to talk.  That is how the shadow of death feels.  

At the HPC was the hard part of being in an organization running on a shoestring budget.  Much time had to be spent trying to raise funding to accomplish way more than anyone realizes.    Note these highlighted links throughout my posts, click on them for dynamic information. 

Despite constantly asking for volunteers to do the real work of helping men, women, and preferably couples to birth and raise a child, in 18 months time I saw less than a dozen volunteer applications pass over my desk.  We had visited many churches and organizations asking for help, many gave money, but few were willing to spend time helping the people that needed it most, the pregnant Mom’s and their future families  Of those dozen half didn’t even follow up on their emotional moment to fill out the form and come in to take the next step to join in on helping people  who are walking in the shadow of death daily.  If just a few who attend the rallies, protests, and donate their money to the ‘fight’ came and worked in the place where we helped those who wanted help I can only imagine the bigger impact that would take place in ministering to people.

Today, I find the same situation volunteering in a less controversial domestic violence and sexual abuse non-profit organization called Turning PointWhy is it so hard to find laborers for the sake of the Gospel?

So this Labor Day weekend while I relish with deep humility my fortune of walking another year on the earth I have overcome that short moment of bitter taste.  You know, we are allowed to have those moments, the Psalmist wrote what they felt.  Certainly don’t stay there long though.  I had trepidation in revisiting a place I worked at and left with a bit of frustration after perhaps giving too much.  When we allow others lack of actions such as leaving the laborers to labor on their own while ‘praying for you’ we ‘LET the devil MAKE’ us bitter.  Rebuke those thoughts and live as we know we are to be as laborers who “Do not withhold good from the deserving when it is within your power to act. Do not tell your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I will provide”— especially when you already have the means.”  Proverbs 3:27-28 BSB

I jotted down a quote someone wrote on Facebook, I cannot find the source sorry to the writer, but it provided some great insight I think is worth sharing:

“Take no notice of what others say about you and even less notice of what they might be thinking. They’ll do it anyway, and you should have pride in yourself and what you’ve achieved. Let them talk and don’t worry. They have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written about your life, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think. Now is the time to be at rest, at peace and as happy as you can be!”  –  I add to the quote, And Labor with joy as God is with you always in every little or big thing you do.

Let your Labor Day Shadow be one that is filled with the peace of God’s comforting hand and guidance.

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