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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Loving Well

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 grandchildren 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 grew from 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 judgment?

Will you intentionally share a legacy of blessing today?

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

**reposting from 2015

Diffused Light repost

I wrote this last January, but after reading the following quote by Stasi Eldredge this morning, and praying for some deeply wounded, suffering souls, I thought it was worth reposting. May you find peace and beauty even in the pain.

“Suffering is real and it is a part of every person’s life. We aren’t to be surprised by it or thrown by it but to seek God in it; not blame him for it but reach to him in it. We can let pain be a doorway to deeper intimacy with Christ. May each of us let God use suffering to transform us. This God of ours promises that he works all things together for our GOOD. ALL things. Even the hardest things. Honestly, because of that, there is much hope to be had there.” ~Stasi Eldredge

In 12 hours I’ll be back home again…not the ideal thoughts on the Monday morning after a break, but it gave me the motivation I needed to get up and get going. I like my job. I really do. But each morning I wake up dreading the day for whatever reason. No, it’s not “whatever reason” it’s that when you struggle with chronic depression, mornings are particularly hard. The day ahead feels daunting. I’ve found over the years that once I’m going, it’s fine; it’s the initial thoughts that need to be overcome. Anyway, this morning I got up, got dressed, read my devotions, and chose to put on a smile. I don’t mean a poser-fake sort of smile, I mean the this-is-your-life-you-are-truly-blessed-even-if-you-don’t-feel-it sort of smile. Every morning I have to remind myself that how I live this life and view this day is a choice–depression or not.

Anyway, I walked out my door and I found a stunning white fur-covered world. Fog caused frost to settle all over the trees, decks, power lines, the antenna on the car and each leaf and twig and blade of grass. Anything and everything that the fog touched, frosted. I was beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. An otherwise dismal, cloudy day transformed into a magical world. Once again, I thought of the beauty in the midst of the dismal. Beauty in pain. Beauty in suffering. Beauty in confusion. Beauty in the fog.

The roads were fine, but the fog hung thick and allowed only limited vision. As I drove through the cloud tunnel, the monochromatic world around me, I saw a small break of diffused light. It wasn’t bright yellow. No round orb was visible. But a brighter light glowed and for that moment, it allowed me to see a little further down the road. Instead of the 100 feet in front of me, I could see a bit more asphalt.

Once again, I was reminded how much depression is like fog. The sun isn’t blocked out completely, but vision is impaired. I often deride myself for struggling to get out of bed in the morning, but driving through the ground-level clouds, I thought how natural it is in the diminished vision to slow down, be careful, and just concentrate on what’s immediately in front of you. As soon as I look beyond the day (or sometimes the hour) I’m overwhelmed because all I see is hazy white. My vision is impaired. But if I simply look at the road in front of me, trusting that the pavement will lead me, I’m ok. Alert. Possibly on edge, but ok.

I have no idea what your fog or struggle is today. It may be finances, a crappy marriage, hurting kids or chronic illness. I have no idea. But I pray that, whatever your situation, you will look to God and take heart. The Light of Christ will never leave you even if His light and presence are diffused by struggle. And believe it or not, there is intense and immense beauty right in the middle of (and sometimes because of) the fog.

Diffused Light

In 12 hours I’ll be back home again…not the ideal thoughts on the Monday morning after a break, but it gave me the motivation I needed to get up and get going. I like my job. I really do. But each morning I wake up dreading the day for whatever reason. No, it’s not “whatever reason” it’s that when you struggle with chronic depression, mornings are particularly hard. The day ahead feels daunting. I’ve found over the years that once I’m going, it’s fine; it’s the initial thoughts that need to be overcome. Anyway, this morning I got up, got dressed, read my devotions, and chose to put on a smile. I don’t mean a poser-fake sort of smile, I mean the this-is-your-life-you-are-truly-blessed-even-if-you-don’t-feel-it sort of smile. Every morning I have to remind myself that how I live this life and view this day is a choice–depression or not.

Anyway, I walked out my door and I found a stunning white fur-covered world. Fog caused frost to settle all over the trees, decks,power lines, the antenna on the car and each leaf and twig and blade of grass. Anything and everything that the fog touched, frosted. I was beautiful. Stunningly beautiful. An otherwise dismal, cloudy day transformed to a magical world. Once again, I thought of the beauty in the midst of the dismal. Beauty in pain. Beauty in suffering. Beauty in confusion. Beauty in the fog.

The roads were fine, but the fog hung thick and allowed only limited vision. As I drove through the cloud tunnel, the monochromatic world around me, I saw a small break of diffused light. It wasn’t bright yellow. No round orb was visible. But a brighter light glowed and for that moment, it allowed me to see a little further down the road. Instead of the 100 feet in front of me, I could see a bit more asphalt.

Once again, I was reminded how much depression is like fog. The sun isn’t blocked out completely, but vision is impaired. I often deride myself for struggling to get out of bed in the morning, but driving through the ground-level clouds, I thought how natural it is in the diminished vision to slow down, be careful, and just concentrate on what’s immediately in front of you. As soon as I look beyond the day (or sometimes the hour) I’m overwhelmed because all I see is hazy white. My vision is impaired. But if I simply look at the road in front of me, trusting that the pavement will lead me, I’m ok. Alert. Possibly on edge, but ok.

I have no idea what your fog or struggle is today. It may be finances, a crappy marriage, hurting kids or chronic illness. I have no idea. But I pray that, whatever your situation, you will look to God and take heart. The Light of Christ will never leave you even if His light and presence are diffused by struggle. And believe it or not, there is intense and immense beauty right in the middle of (and sometimes because of) the fog.

Ally, advocate and friend

Most burst into her room full of youthful energy and raging hormones. Some slink in silently, trying to avoid eye-contact, wishing they were invisible. She greets each the same: with a big welcoming smile, hearty hello, and cheerful word of encouragement. She’s there to help them; it’s her mission and they know it. She wants each to succeed. She’s their ally. And when they do succeed, they happily share their joy with her. And when they fail, she offers life-giving words of future hope. She’s there, day after day, reminding them that they are not in this alone.There is help and it comes in the form of a lovely, resourceful, energetic ally who won’t give up on them.

If she’s gone, they ask endlessly when she”ll be back. Playing games around the table, going for walks, during class time, even when tough situations arise, it’s clear she is their first choice.  Daily, someone different comes to her for advice, counsel, and encouragement. She listens and the compassion washes over her face as she hears their words. And that’s why they come: she hears them. She truly listens and hears not only what they speak, but beyond the words, she hears their fears and insecurities. Her tender and passionate heart toward these oft’ times pushed-aside souls proves steadfast. You can see her eyes flash with anger when she learns of injustice and flicker with humor when she jokes with them and rim with tears when she hurts with them.  She is loved and beloved. She serves as mouthpiece for those who can’t always speak for themselves. She’s there, day after day, reminding them that they are not in this alone. There is help and it comes in the form of a caring, funny, passionate advocate who won’t give up on them.

They show up at her door–at all hours– and she invites them in, both with warm words and a sweet smile. They’re mostly young women and they need a wise word and a shoulder to cry on and she’s there. Despite her incredibly busy life as a mom with young kids, she makes time and takes time to listen and nod and pray. Her kind heart draws them out and there’s safety in her presence. She offers herself to them in patient humility. She’s there, day after day, reminding them that they are not in this alone. There is help and it comes in the form of a tender, wise, kind friend who won’t give up on them.

Day after day, I come. Sometimes bursting, sometimes slinking. Some days I come in tears, weary and insecure.  Some days I approach boldly, in confident faith and hope. Day after day I run to him, scared of the future, weary of the past and trying to live in the present. Day after day I question and search.  Day after day, I come with begging bowl in hand, needing grace. And day after day, He hears and listens and offers. His patience and kindness astound and amaze. His infinite resources boggle my mind. His passion for my heart cuts my complaints off at the knees. His tenderness in my hurts move me to tears. He’s there, day after day, reminding me that I’m not in this alone. There is Help and it comes in the form of a Wise, Never-changing, Never-failing, completely trustworthy Ally, Advocate and Friend.

 

My soul finds rest in God alone, my rock and my salvation
A fortress strong against my foes and I will not be shaken
Though lips may bless and hearts may curse
And lies like arrows pierce me
I’ll fix my heart on righteousness, I’ll look to Him who hears me

O praise Him, Hallelujah, my Delight and my Reward
Everlasting, never failing, my Redeemer, my God (Lyrics From Psalm 62 by Aaron Keyes)

last place

This in a private message exchange between my daughter and I*.  It’s been sitting in my “drafts” folder for over a year and as I re-read the exchange today, I am reminded of the great privilege we have of being Jesus’ to others. Servant-hood and sacrifice are our privilege as Christ-followers, not a necessary drudgery or a way to earn favor with an angry God. We *get* to serve and sacrifice and put others first so that Jesus is known!

MB: Got any good books/devos I should read?

Me: it depends on what you want to read

MB: umm dealing with
how to be a servant and exemplify christ?

Me: My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers
always encourages and challenges me but it’s written
in 19th century English slang so not everybody gets a lot
out of it. And I would say focus on loving Jesus and
the servant-hood stuff just comes as a result of the relationship.
Truly, just reading scripture really is the best. When I was
your age I read through the Psalms…slowly…chewing on them.
Just a thought.

I just i don’t know I felt really convicted by Mark 9:35
((He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said,
“Whoever wants to be first must take last place
and be the servant of everyone else.”))

and just thinking about my attitude toward
a lot of things and people, but I just don’t
really know what that looks like lived out, you know?

Me: It looks like the Haitian mom baking dirt pies
when that’s all she has to give…it looks like your dad
when he takes out the garbage or shovels the walk or works
on jobs he hates so we can have what we need…
it looks like Aunt Sara doing a chapel on Joy even
though she hates speaking in public…it looks like Uncle Scott
going to care for grandma every day for several years because
he knew it comforted her…it looks like Grandma knitting hats
for tiny babies she’ll never meet…it looks like smiling at the
grocery clerk or giving a compliment to the complete stranger
or listening to your friends troubles when you have your own hurts…
it looks like Pastor Ken faithfully serving in a dinky church with
no recognition and very little pay because he knows God wants him there…
it looks like Mike and Megan leaving their own country to use their gifts
far from family and familiarity…it looks like the woman married to the jerk
that she keeps loving  for Christ’s sake…it looks like a  (mom) not
giving up on her wayward daughter…it looks like the husband
who forgives his wife…it looks like Nate and Catherine adopting
and loving their 3 children…it looks like M releasing her first
child for adoption…

You have been and are now surrounded by genuine, authentic Christ-followers
living out their faiths. It looks different in everyone. No one knows
what someone else is asked to sacrifice to be a servant because
its different for each person. What is a sacrifice for you may be easy
for me and vice versa. I know you didn’t ask for such a long response,
but truly, being a servant–being last—has to do with listening
and loving Jesus more than anything else.

It looks like Listening and loving Jesus more than anything else.

*I left it as is–no edits–gramatical errors, abbreviations and all.

Seasons

Hoisting the big black plastic parcel over his back, he begins his trek. He moves, at a slow but purposeful pace, through the hallways, smiling and greeting fellow students as he goes. Daily, we take this journey back beyond the maintenance room doors and out through the garages to the bins to deposit the 45 gallon sack. Usually, we talk of the task and whether his bundle is heavy or light, but this day in February, as we look beyond the dumpster and see the frozen white fields stretching before us, we have no words.  He smiles as he breaks the silence, “Spring is coming.”  Gazing out at the stark, monochromatic view and feeling the bone-chilling cold of a northwest wind, absolutely nothing about the scene indicates that Spring is coming. Nothing. Yet, my young charge knows that the days will lengthen and the sun’s power will strengthen and the snow will melt and the ground thaw and Spring will come. He knows because the calendar says it will come. He knows because his mom and dad have promised him a turkey-hunting trip in the spring. He knows because in his seventeen years of life, it always comes. So, against all outward evidence, he knows and believes that the seasons will change.

I remember looking out that day at the same unforgiving landscape and squinting, trying hard to imagine the white ground carpeted in green and the solid earth, soft and warm and black. I, too, knew spring would come. It was just hard to believe.

That was February.

Last week, making our way along the familiar path, black bag over his shoulder, we saw it, both of us. The same view only now covered in growing grass and newly turned black dirt and blue skies and the sweet smell of a warm wind. Spring was here. After months of snow and cold and grey and dark, new life emerges: clean, fresh, filled with hope and promise.

Some of you reading this are in desperate need of Spring. You’ve lived in a season of frozen earth for so long, you’ve forgotten the smell of lilacs and fresh mown grass and southerly winds in your heart. Hope is distant. Belief difficult to muster. You look around and see bleek mid-winter. Will your season ever change? Will Spring ever come?

Take a deep breath.

Exhale.

Right now is not forever.

Whatever season you’re in?

will change.

Spring will come.

to be continued…