Loving Well.

It rained on Saturday. Not a steady, all-day downpour, but an on and off drip. As we pulled into Fort Snelling, the drips subsided and the clouds thinned. Damp, colorful red and yellow leaves littered the hollowed ground as searched for the grave. We stood, three figures, remembering and missing. For four years he’s been absent from us and in the presence of the Holy. The tombstone reads: “Alive in Christ” and as I stood, I tried to imagine what that meant for Dad and what it means for me. We left the cemetery and went on with our day, enjoying each other’s company, but missing Dad’s.

As I drove home yesterday, I pondered again Dad’s life and legacy. Once again, I remembered his love, humor, intelligence and wisdom and thanked God for it. Dad loved people well. But his love came at personal cost. An introverts introvert, dad would have preferred to live his life in his home surrounded by his books and music with his lovely wife by his side. He could have easily and happily stayed within the confines and safety of his home. But he loved God and God calls us to love others. So he did. Dad loved others through kind words. He loved them through hugs. He loved them through his teaching and wisdom. He loved them through his generosity. He loved them through faithfully and skillfully practicing his trade. People experienced God’s love because Dad saw every interaction as a means of showing God’s love.

I don’t know what your day looks like today or if your life sucks right now. I don’t know what battles you face or the mountains that seem insurmountable. But I pray for you, friend. I pray if you’re not feeling loved, that someone will be God’s love to you today. And if you claim Christ, I pray you take loving others well as a serious and beautiful calling.

 

 

 

 

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Quiet.

I’m reposting from my archives today. I wrote this three years ago, and in the interim, it seems soul-rest has been even more elusive. I needed to hear this again today. Maybe you do too.

I relish in the quiet of the early morning. In fact, I love any kind of quiet at any time of day. Silence, over the years, proves my friend. Every morning I drive my 35 minute commute in beautiful silence. I guess I’m an auditory minimalist. Too many noises, even good ones, wear on me. Incessant background noise–tv, radio, lots of voices– exhaust me. I suppose it has to do with filters– I have a hard time tuning anything out so it quickly becomes too much.

Lately, although I enjoy an abundance of silence, I’ve noticed that my being struggles to be quiet. Always churning and chewing on thoughts and emotions, both my heart and mind remain a far cry from quiet. A pervasive theme throughout my life, the convergence of past hurts, present struggles, and future fears set up a road-block in me and it’s a daily battle to tear it down and continue on my journey.

This morning, over coffee, I read this from the author, Isaiah:

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.

There’s so much noise in our world, so many things vying for our attention. How can we possibly weed it all out? And yet if we don’t–weed out the noise (sounds, sights, smells, activities)–I believe there’s the possibility we’ll miss the soul-rest that’s right there in front of us.

That verse from Isaiah? I didn’t include the last line; the complete verse reads:

This is what the Sovereign Lord,
    the Holy One of Israel, says:
“Only in returning to me
    and resting in me will you be saved.
In quietness and confidence is your strength.
    But you would have none of it.

In other versions, they translate that line as “But you refused.” or “But you were unwilling”.

We all claim to want and desire peace and yet what are we willing to do or to change so that we have it? Is soul-rest right there for the taking, but because of an unwillingness on our part to simply accept it or make changes or believe it, we end up missing it? I know I do . I miss the invitation and I miss out on the rest. I know I trade quietness for the noise of the world, and I certainly trade confidence and trust for doubts and fears.

So today, once again, I pray for a willing, receptive, open heart so that I don’t miss the rest and salvation being freely offered and freely given. I pray for a constantly returning, remembering, believing heart.

In Between dusk and dawn

Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God: But only he who sees takes off his shoes. ~Elizabeth Barrett Browning

On the cusp of dawn, leaving the night behind, but not quite daybreak.
The in-between.
Mysterious. Dark and light mingled and entwined and, for a few brief moments, inseparable.
Wide awake during the in between, praying…thinking, I strangely had a flashback to college.
Religion 101. Junior year–yes I realize that is late in a college career to take a general course and the registrar and prof were not happy with me, but I was and still am of the opinion that the point of a liberal arts education is to have a diverse, balanced course of study all the way through school…ok, sorry about that…stepping off my soap box now and back to the blog… Religion 101…junior…oh yeah…
Willis P. De Boer. Close to retirement, lanky with what I thought at the time were unusually long appendages (now I know that it’s just part of being Dutch) and a slight brogue, he gestured with those far reaching fingers and said we were the in “the already but the not yet”.
The already but the not yet.
The in between.
Like seeing a mountain range far off we recognize the majesty and vastness, but don’t really begin to understand their scope until we travel into them. The view is different from the foothills to the passes to the mountain tops to the high plateaus. Discovery is around every corner and rarely looks the way we expected it to.
When Jesus came to earth, He ushered in God’s Eternal Kingdom. It’s already here. But as is painfully obvious, the fulfillment of that Kingdom seems forever in the future with, at times, little evidence of its existence. For the past 2000 years we, the human race, have been journeying through the mountains of the already but the not yet.

Oh, we’re in awe of the beauty and rugged delicacy. But we’re fickle people and even the majesty of the mountains becomes mundane and all we see are the rocks and foot falls. Sometimes we’re fearful that any misstep could lead to disaster. Not always aware that what we’re in is so much bigger than us, we continue on.
I know I’ve felt lost in the mountains…in the in between. Caught in the middle…wanting desperately to get through or at least to a peak so I can get a bigger view and maybe see how much farther there is to go. Caught. Between night and day.
But then there are those moments, when beauty or art or music or communion with loved ones, or acts of kindness and generosity, or the realization of sacrifice transcends what we can grasp and is something felt not thought, and we get a glimpse of the already but the not yet. Signs of the coming dawn.
Life in the in between.

***forgive mixing metaphors and being a bit melodramatic…remember I wrote it in the wee hours and after reading Bronte.***

*reposting from the archives today. I originally published this back in 2010

Mercy

“A beggar poor at Mercy’s door, lies such a wretch as I;
Thou knowest my need is great indeed, Lord, hear me when I cry.”~Samuel Medley

Throughout my life of faith, grace (or rather Grace), has meant everything to me. The knowledge, belief ,and experience that Grace is real, has been my bedrock. Grace: being given something I didn’t ask for and don’t deserve that’s more than I could imagine. I’ve been given saving Grace, sustaining Grace, guiding Grace, and forgiving Grace. It’s all a gift.

Lately, another reality of God ignites my soul: Mercy.
Grace is all about Love…free, unconditional, pure, saving love.
Mercy possesses a different quality. Mercy suggests being spared from something. There’s an element of judgement in Mercy that makes it even more wonderful. I deserve “A” but am shown Mercy and get “B” instead. Beautiful.

The words above by Samuel Medley**, grip my heart each time I hear them. I show up, beggar poor–nothing to offer, nothing to give–at Mercy’s door. He opens the door and instead of sending me away empty-handed or throwing me some scraps and then slamming the door in my face, He invites me in. Essentially, because of sin, we’re all strangers to Him. And yet, even as a stranger, because of His Mercy, He opens the doors wide open. He asks me to live there, in this place of Mercy.

But here’s the thing, if I leave Mercy’s door, I leave beggar-poor again. I can’t go there, fill up, and expect to distribute the wealth I’ve been given as if I were Father Christmas. No, I come a beggar, and if I leave, I leave a beggar. So often, we, as Christians, talk about being “filled” in such a superficial way. It’s as if you can tank up on God like you would gas and run for a while until you’re empty and then go back for more filling. He’s not a cosmic gas station. I come to God with nothing and I leave Him with nothing.

The only way I can share His love –the only way to be “filled”– is by staying at His Mercy Door. Jesus put it this way in the book of John:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.” 

When we stay in His presence, we become a channel or instrument of His grace, love, forgiveness and mercy and not a distributor of it. God, may we show up beggar poor at your door and feast on your welcoming Mercy so others may experience it as well.

**The words are lyrics from “Love me to the End”; a hymn by Medley and covered by Red Mountain Music. Take a listen…

***Posting from the archives today

 

 

Forecast

The weather’s been sketchy the last few days. Today’s forecast boasts “Showers with scattered storms and patchy fog mingled with sunshine.”  Brad looked at the radar and started discussing the instability of the atmosphere. Little showers pop up and fall apart. The sun peaks out, heats everything up, then hides. The air, saturated with moisture, smells damp and springy. It’s difficult to plan any outdoor activities. Weather in Iowa is notoriously unpredictable, but this is different. This is shifty, changeable weather from minute to minute.

I’ve often compared chronic and major depression to a fog, skewing and distorting reality and making the journey slow and arduous. But the last several weeks, it’s felt more like today’s weather: changeable and unpredictable. One minute I’m walking in sunshine and the next, I’m caught in a downpour of painful memories, self-loathing, and isolation. It’s been exhausting, living in this low-pressure system. I’ve dealt with depression now for 30 years so I have the coping skills down and employ my full arsenal regularly. But sometimes, when the tears blind side and the inner accusations mount, my weapons seem useless and my attempts at alleviating the pain, futile.

John records for us in his book in the Bible that Jesus said: “The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy but I come that you may have life and have it to the full.” As I grow and walk through life, I continue to realize that the “full” life doesn’t mean a pain-free life or a happily-ever-after life. It doesn’t mean living in a sunny and 75º degree life all the time. It means living in a redemptive life. It means that nothing is wasted; no joy or pain that we experience is trivial or useless. Full life means growing and loving not in spite of the pain, but because of it. Full life means we’re never alone even when it feels like it. Full life means there’s always Someone going to bat for us. The writer of the book of Hebrews talks about the Great High Priest who constantly intercedes or advocates on our behalf. Even when it doesn’t feel like it and we can’t see the effects, things are happening behind the scenes. We have the best possible Person making sure we’ll be ok in the end. I know it’s true. It’s just, some days it’s hard to believe the Truth because the atmosphere is so unstable.

I’m glad it’s Easter tomorrow. Jesus coming, living, dying and rising again doesn’t mean the pain is gone on earth. It doesn’t mean there’s no struggle. It doesn’t mean life is happy and perfect all the time. It means there’s redemption in the pain. It means I don’t walk this road alone. And neither do you, my friend. I have no idea what your skies look like today. Maybe your marriage is failing. Maybe your kid walks a dangerous, self-destructive path. Maybe you’re staring retirement in the face without a penny to your name and it scares you to death. Maybe the brokenness and pain of the past cripples you to live in the present. I have no idea. But Jesus came to offer hope, stability, and redemption.

 

 

 

Finding Freedom

**make sure to watch both videos in sequence.

We struggle under the weight.
The failed relationships.
The strained marriages.
The wayward children.
The painful life not quite left behind.
The job we hate.
The words we can’t take back.
The words we can’t forget.
The sorrow of letting go either through death or circumstances.
The forever tight finances.
The hounding health issues.
Sometimes, we shove all of it, all the burdens, into our briefcases or purses or backpacks and lug them around.
We become accustomed to their mass and bulk.
Even comfortable under the load.
We don’t see that after a while, they don’t just burden us, but everyone around us.
Failure.
Disappointment.
Unmet expectations.
Unfulfilled dreams.
Past mistakes haunt.
Past abuses cling.
Careless, painful words echo.
Fear hangs.
We weave our tortuous way along life’s path with burdens strapped to us like extra appendages.
Or tumors.
We hide.
We fight.
We run.
We labor.
Eventually, we will buckle under the weight.

Is there hope?
As Easter approaches, I’m reminded that yes, Hope exists and my belief is renewed.

Writing about Jesus, the prophet Isaiah brings Hope:
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed.
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

Then a few chapters later, he wrote more about Jesus:

He has sent me to tell those who mourn    
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel,  
he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning,    
festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks    
that the Lord has planted for his own glory.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins,    
repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them,    
though they have been deserted for many generations.

We do not have to live, breathe and move with our burdens defining us and disfiguring us. 
There is Hope.

A Quieter Grief

Subtle, nagging, tugging, I felt the grief pulling at my heart all day. Through worship, memories, sights, and sounds, I felt his absence.  Tears threatened and spilled over and I cried for the missing and the longing.

It’s been a big year in the life of my family–engagements, graduations, jobs, marriages, moves– and we didn’t get to share it with him. It’s not like he feels like he’s missing anything–he’s in Glory experiencing ultimate joy and complete rest. For the last three years, he’s understood an eternal perspective that I can only grasp at like a child chasing a bubble.

So I didn’t cry for him today. I cried for me. I cried for the missing and the longing.

Quiet grief blanketed me today as I remembered.  And that’s ok. Quiet, private, intimate memories trickled into my consciousness. The beautiful legacy of love and grace that he left behind gently washed over my soul. I reveled in the exclusiveness and privacy of my grief. That may sound strange, but God brought His healing balm as I walked this quiet grief-road primarily alone.

I don’t know what loss you’ve experienced. I have no idea how far along you are in your journey of grief. Maybe it’s fresh and new and your pain is public. Maybe people are starting to forget even as your own longing ache intensifies. I pray, no matter your surroundings and circumstances along the way, you’ll take comfort in the One who always walks beside you.

Lasting Legacy“Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.” -Jesus