The drug cartel has moved into Playa del Carmen, our adopted city of residence. I didn’t learn this from any personal experience, just word of mouth. When I saw a police pickup truck with its lights flashing, with one officer standing in the back of the truck, outfitted in a full SWAT uniform, I had to ask “why all the muscle?” When I saw a car being pulled over by the police, with one officer carrying an assault rifle while questioning the driver and another standing by looking all SWAT-like at attention, also holding an assault rifle, I wondered if there was going to be shoot-out.
The cartels had not been spotted here before, but we saw them in some of their activities while picking up some street food tacos. The cities of Cancun, Playa, Tulum, and others down the Caribbean Sea coast, make up the state of Quintana Roo, on the Yucatán Peninsula. To say tourism is their main industry would be like saying a cruise ship´s main function is to ferry rich vacationers around to luxurious seaports, that is to say, the economy here doesn’t have any other significant industry, other than I believe they make some tequila on the island of Cozumel. The police have only two main functions here: hunt for drug traffickers and protect the tourists. So, it’s a very big deal that the drug cartels have been spotted.
We are entering into the hot and rainy season, the off-season, when all the sensible snowbirds have flown back north to avoid the heat. It doesn’t feel so hot, but I believe the humidity is around 150%. The sun is so intense, you have to shield your eyes and squint, even in the shade with your sunglasses on. I shoot baskets at an outdoor covered court as dawn approaches and come back as drenched as if I just walked out of the ocean. Then, if I get back before 7, I can race to the 5th floor roof and the pool before the maid comes up to clean. It’s the most beautiful time of the day for me; it´s cool, the water is cold, the ocean breeze is a natural air conditioner, and you can see the cruise ships coming and going from the island of Cozumel. I would love to share it with Laurie, but she won´t be up for two more hours. It’s now after 1, and it’s so hot I haven’t been out since.
Laurie reached a milestone yesterday, she got out of her wheelchair and walked with a cane.
But between that and her physical therapy and her pool exercises, it takes a lot out of her and she sleeps a lot, sometimes as much as sixteen hours a day. Experts say it’s normal. The brain normally takes up about 20% of our energy, but for a stroke survivor, it’s much higher. When neurons in the brain make connections, it creates over 100 trillion synapses. These synaptic connections are working at reconnecting what was disconnected and new cells are replacing the ones that suffered trauma. So, the affected parts of her body are learning like a baby how to function again. And what her body is learning in physical therapy, her short-term memory is transferred to her long-term memory while she sleeps. So, day and night, God is slowly healing her. I say “healing” because I believe she is recovering quicker than the natural process.
I´m also reading the three-volume set The Christian in Complete Armor by William Gurnall. It´s literally the only three books I brought with me from my massive library that I sold off or gave away before I left Portland. (Everything else is on Kindle). When I sold my roll top desk, a grievous undertaking for a writer, a woman, a lover of Gurnall´s books, bought it and so it helped to medicate the pain of my loss. As for Gurnall lovers: it’s a very exclusive club, so far, I just know about her and me.
I cried out to God this morning and He spoke encouraging words to me through Gurnall. He wrote, “we can´t stand the time of trial and testings in our own strength.” Of course, I’ve always believed and preached that, in theory, but I know prior to this trip I was depending mostly on my own strength to navigate through life. Finances were fine, I was doing some writing and driving for a retirement community once a week and doing a Bible study there. Laurie was working as a florist (until she totally burned out on it). I was relatively comfortable and coasting, which led to a diminishing purpose in life. I still prayed and read the Word in the morning, as has been my habits for over forty years, but quite honestly, I didn’t feel I needed Him too much—I was doing OK. But then life just didn’t have the right flavor.
Much of this trip has been designed by God to correct this. Like other such seasons in my life, I know I´ll be thankful for it, especially when it´s over. Then I read Gurnall´s words: “The one who abandons faith in the midst of a spiritual drought can be compared to the fool who throws away his pitcher the first day the well is dry.”
I know my frailties and know my soul needs to stay under God’s protection to overcome the fears of things we are facing, things mostly in my head—projective fears, fears of things that haven´t happened yet. It´s a strange thing about fear: a) We can use it as a shield, like if we`re faithful to worry about something we`re doing our part to fix it, and b) If we don´t worry, I guess we just don´t care. And there´s always the right answer on the quiz: c) We´re not worried because we are trusting God.
He comforts me, even though my faith is weak. I sometimes dispute the mercy of God and wondering if He has forgotten us and will fail to rescue us. If I keep surrendering my doubts and fears, He sends His relief in many small and sometimes larger ways. Two scriptures come readily to mind. Jesus said that not even a sparrow falling to the ground escapes His notice. That being true, how much more does He look out for His own people? And then He adds, “Oh you of little faith.” (Ouch) In other words, why worry about something that He is already in full control of? And the other one: ¨My God shall provide all of your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus.”
Mark Twain once said, “I´ve had many worries in my life, but most of them never happened.” I believe he would agree with Jesus.