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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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.

Healing balm

I just finished reading The Hunger Games at school with a few sophomore students. Two times, Katniss faces injury and needs medical help, once for herself and once for her partner, Peeta. In both instances, help arrives just in time. Both times, she’s provided with a goopy balm that brings both relief and healing. Both times she knew she needed help. She knew the situation was beyond her and both times she had no choice but to wait for someone to show mercy.

It’s been a whirlwind week and weekend. Graduation, parties, wedding stuff, end of the school year busyness and daily life kept us all on our toes and living moment to moment. We made it. We celebrated milestones and enjoyed it all. But honestly, most of the time, I was one step away from a wreck. Trying to hold it together emotionally and stay on top of home life and work and all the extras felt overwhelming. At each moment when I didn’t think I’d make it to the next without a meltdown, help arrived. Not in the form a beeping, parachuted tin of balm like Katniss received, but  in the form of people. Calming words, reassuring hugs, and surprise guests eased my burdens. My kids and friends and family stepped up and stepped in and provided an amazing graduation party for our daughter. My sisters and sisters-in-law threw a spectacular shower for my other daughter. My sweet mom did my laundry and dishes and held things down on the homefront. They were all a healing balm to my weary soul and I’m beyond grateful. I could not have walked through the last week without them.

And then, in the middle of it, we got the late-night call every parent dreads.  Our son and his girlfriend were in a car accident. Thankfully, mercifully, both my son and his lovely friend were miraculously unharmed but somewhere on CR 38 is a concussed deer who got the better of the 2005 Honda. In the dark, rainy night, Brad and I drove N & C back home and in the midst of relief, I worried. Although they were safe and sound, I could tell they were both shaken and my son was beating himself up over the accident. I tried to speak reassuring words. I tried to bring comfort, but it was still fresh and scary. Then, when we arrived home and walked in the door shortly before midnight, all his siblings were waiting to give hugs and listen to the stories. They provided relief that I could not. As a parent, it was an absolute joy to see and hear them surround their brother and friend with love and support and laughter. They were healing balm to an injured spirit and it was beautiful.

IMG_7078Paul says to the Roman people “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other.”  The entire weekend was a beautiful picture of community. At every turn, friends and family were sharing our joy, lightening our load and comforting us in our pains, insecurities, and shortcomings. We experienced servanthood and mercy and generosity and grace upon grace upon grace. Thank you, you beautiful souls, who lived life with us this weekend. Thank you for your selfless giving of time and talent and resources. Thank you for setting up and taking down and serving food and cleaning up and filling in the gaps and taking photos and making runs to the grocery store and planting flowers and giving hugs and speaking wisdom and for bringing joy. Thank you, my own dear children, for being there for one another and for providing a healing balm to one another in a fallen world. I love you all and thank God for you.

And to those reading, let this be an encouragement to show up for people. Be community for others. Share their burdens. Lighten their loads. Be generous with your gifts. Be a healing balm to a weary soul today.

At Mercy’s Door

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.”
~John Newton

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 John Newton (who also composed “Amazing Grace”) 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. 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. 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.” 

Connections

A Noiseless Patient Spider

BY Walt Whitman

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

 

Every day, walking the halls at school, wandering the aisles of the grocery store, sitting in the chairs at church, endlessly perusing social media–whatever the activity–people are desperate for connections. People universally search for meaning, significance and a place to belong. The need for community encompasses young, old, and middle-aged. Loneliness–or the fear of it– does not discriminate based on race, religion or socioeconomic class.

Love, encourage, and speak kindly to whoever is placed in your path today. It may be inconvenient. It may require a sacrifice of time and energy on your part. It may even feel uncomfortable. But, if you claim to be a Christ-follower, this is not a suggestion or a theoretical idea, but a command.


Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. ~1 John 4:7

So encourage each other and build each other up…~1 Thessalonians 5:11

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. ~Ephesians 5:1

Open your eyes today. Someone in your sphere needs to connect with you. There are tiny filaments being launched in your direction. Get out of your own youniverse, and respond.

Beauty Defined

I have a sister who is beauty defined.

A hard-fought faith, her humility refined.

Compassion and empathy ooze from her being,

Providing shelter for the hurting and balm for the healing.

Consistently loving, constantly seeking, purposefully living,

is this beautiful sister of mine.

She traverses her days, well-read, well-schooled, well-taught,

Her wisdom and discernment, continually sought.

Her gentle words of grace, always perfectly timed.

I have a sister who is beauty defined.

Happy Birthday, my dear Kameron!  I wish I had better command of the language and more refined skill, because I feel like there’s no way to convey to you my deep love, respect and admiration for who you are and what you mean to me.  I love you with all my heart!

Celebrating a Legacy

My dad left a lot when he passed away. He left a house, a car, clothes and his beloved books.   He left co-workers and friends who loved him. He left children and grand children who adored him. He left a loving wife who deeply misses him. He left a legacy of life-long learning. He left a legacy of faith. He left a legacy of curiosity and adventure. But I believe one of the best things my dad left, was a legacy of blessing.

My dad was known for his bright, easy smile and quick wit. People liked him and liked to be around him. But beyond the winning smile, keen intellect and great personality, people were drawn to dad because he loved them. I saw my dad love and bless each person he met–literally every person no matter how minor or brief their encounter. His life exuded encouragement and mercy and grace and blessing. I remember one time he and my mom were traveling to Iowa and stopped at a Hardee’s for ice cream. While in the line, dad struck up a conversation with a younger guy. Within minutes, the man told mom and dad of his rough past and new-found faith and his desire to change. There, amid the rushed customers, mom and dad prayed with him, gave him words of encouragement and blessed him. This is one example among many; his life was a life of giving. He took time to listen and bless.

So, my dad’s love for others wasn’t just philanthropic or born out of a general love for humanity. His love  and passion to bless people came out of his love and passion for his Savior, Jesus and out of a deep gratitude. His love and blessing were intentional. Dad struggled with depression. Dad struggled with his past. Dad struggled with self-image and worth. Dad struggled with an addictive personality. Dad struggled with pride. He would readily, easily and quickly share with you that Jesus was his only hope and without Him, he was nothing. The introverted scholar, who could easily have holed up in his man-cave forever, chose to leave the safety and quiet and comfort to bless and love others because of the Love he’d been shown. He loved others well because of the great Love he’d been given.

I’m confident that his legacy of blessing reaches far beyond what we know because of this Love.

Would you do something for me today, in honor of his birthday?

Would you love people wholly and intentionally today?

When an interaction devolves into gossip, will you be the one to bring the grace and love and turn the conversation around?
Will you be the one to show kindness and grace to the person who bugs you (and perhaps everyone else) the most?
Will you greet each person you meet with kindness and openness, expecting the best instead of the worst?
Will you step out of your comfort zone, putting your own fears, busyness and agenda aside, to bring encouragement to someone else?
Will you pray with someone who needs it today?
Will you put your needs on the back-burner and live self-sacrificially today?
Will you refrain from the snarky comment at someone else’s expense?
Will you show restraint and grace when you don’t agree with someone else’s political or religious beliefs?
If you work in a school, will you look for the kid who tries to hide and try to make a connection?
If you’re a student, will you bless your classmates with kindness, respect and actual attention–yes, even the weird kid who picks his nose–in fact–especially the weird kid who picks his nose?
Will you be the one at the water cooler who brings words of life instead of criticism?

Will you plant seeds of kindness instead of selfishness?
Will you make today about blessing instead of cursing? Loving instead of ignoring? Boldly sharing grace instead of standing in judgement?

Will you intentionally share a legacy of blessing today?

Imagine the beauty in this day if we choose to live like this!