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Green Bay, Mercy Me, friends bring hope

Roxane Salonen

I feel a bit sheepish admitting publicly, in Vikings fan territory, that I recently attended a conference for Christian communicators in Green Bay, Wis.

But I think even my purple-and-gold-hearted husband would have enjoyed the opening reception and tour of the impressive Lambeau Field.

The week also included a stunning pre-dusk rosary walk at our nation's only-approved Marian apparition site, invigorating sessions at a hotel bordering the sparkling Fox River, and Mass at a newly restored cathedral filled with awe-inspiring, colorful murals.

All this gladdened my soul, but the before, after and in-between also revealed God's abiding presence.

I stopped en route at a friend's home to share a meal and evening of sorting through life's perplexities. The return brought crossings with two more. Each late-planned visit provided proof of God's abundance.

Facing 16 hours on the road alone, I'd also borrowed several books-on-tape and musical CDs. Along with Laura Story and Michael W. Smith, C.S. Lewis accompanied me, describing in his own voice "The Four Loves" and teaching me, through another's British accent, about "The Problem of Pain."

The latter specifically drew me because of the recent suicides that have gripped our nation. Like many, I'm deeply troubled by the current unsettling trend.

None of the friends I met along my journey, nor I, have escaped hardship. One admitted she's been wondering lately about the point of living.

Suicide knows no bounds; its sinister arms reach out to all. In fact, political analyst Kirsten Powers recently wrote about her own brush with suicidal thoughts and encouraged others to tell their stories of overcoming this dark desire.

I can't pin down exactly what pulled me from my own despairing times, including a phase in adolescence that had me contemplating ending it all. But I do know that God's gentle, hopeful voice showing me tomorrow played a part.

Blogger Elizabeth Scalia recently challenged the sentiment of faith as a simple solution for reversing the direction of one caught in the throes of suicidal thoughts. While I agree, I don't think the complexities should eliminate the possibility of God being part of the antidote.

But maybe it's not about insisting others have God in their lives — an impossibility — or shaming them for this absence, but in focusing instead on more intentionally cultivating our own relationship with God so we might bring his healing hope to others.

God's presence does heal. My trip brought consolation from the lavish Wisconsin countryside, tender talks with friends, a bishop's recitation of Emily Dickinson, and, once back in Fargo, the incredible sunset that dropped into the Mercy Me concert at Bluestem just as "I Can Only Imagine" was being performed (https://youtu.be/Exllmn5Boo8).

Easy answers won't turn this tragic trend, but tending to the soul can be a start. Perhaps in the small acts of bringing our sunsets, rivers and good words to others, we can help renew the possibility of tomorrow being reachable and worthy.

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