Be The Light

I don’t cry easily.  Really, I don’t.  But this week, I have. The overwhelming sadness  that sits right outside our doors is hard to fathom.  Every morning I get pulled from a deep sleep into a waking up, and my thoughts go like this, “It’s light. It’s morning…. oh, we are still in the middle of a worldwide pandemic.  I then pick up my phone to check the time and it is blowing up with updates and information from around the world.  Every day the numbers get higher, every day more people die.  Really healthy, young people. Babies.  Healthy adults, the elderly, the poor, the needy, the rich…it does not much matter.  This virus is wreaking absolute havoc on humanity.

It’s sunny and warm out here in Kansas City today. The Robins are singing, the bluebirds are back, fluttering from tree to tree gathering little berries off trees to bring back to their nests.  They have really been my only companions besides Rob and Belle. They are so funny to watch. Ive gotten several photos of them, their little head tilts make me laugh. One was listening to a cardinal sing yesterday, and it tilted it’s head toward the song, seeming to like it. 8561BBFB-0034-4240-A0D6-24676ECC1049

Everything in my yard feels very, very safe.

But “out there” …wow.  It’s dark, even on the sunniest of days with the bluest of skies.  I suppose it’s appropriate, considering it is Holy Week.  The week Jesus was betrayed. The week leading up to his end. The completion of his job on earth in body form. Jesus wept.  He did, and we can too.

We need each other more than ever.  You have the power to be the light in someone’s day today.  Shine bright friends, we can overcome this darkness together.

 

When We Suffer…

0B84E5C8-7E37-4A00-956A-080E2B22FE97But God is the God of the waves and the billows, and they are still His when they come over us; and again and again we have proved that the overwhelming thing does not overwhelm. Once more by His interposition deliverance came. We were cast down, but not destroyed.”

~Amy Carmichael

 Amy Carmichael was a young single woman alive to the love of Jesus and the mission she was called to at the turn of the last century.  She served Him in Southern India, rescuing very young girls from the evil practice of prostitution at the Hindu temples. Eventually she rescued boys, growing her little family to over a thousand children.

One night while walking in the dark, she tripped over a hole in the ground and severely injured her leg. Her injury was not fixable with the medical treatment that was available to her.  She was bedridden for the last twenty years of her life- quarantined.

Despite her injury and constant agony and pain, she ran the orphanage and published around 35 books, without the internet, computer or even a typewriter.

God used Amy in amazing ways.  Her work in Southern India continues to this day.

She chose Jesus when all else looked helpless.  She served God and the people around her wholeheartedly. She said often that her missionary work was nothing else but a chance to die– die to self and be alive in Jesus.

I think of Amy often, I have studied her life for years.  I cannot count the number of times I have said to myself, “Amy did it. So can I.” Her life is a symbol to me of Jesus’ love and wholehearted devotion in the midst of extreme suffering.  It wasn’t difficult for her to talk to others about the love and grace of Jesus, she saw him in her suffering, because of her suffering, and the suffering of the women and children around her.

Often in difficult times, we see God moving more; People’s hearts are more open.  Hardship breeds longing for assurance and hope. There is a commonality in the face of suffering that does not happen in any other way.

You have the best message in the world! God is real! Jesus is alive! The Holy Spirit is Hope!

God the Father will take care of you.  Jesus is your friend, forever with you, and the Holy Spirit alive in you will give you the wisdom and strength you need for each new day.

We struggle, but we press on.  We are cast down, but we will not be destroyed. God will take care of you.

“Look at the birds of the air. They don’t plant or gather crops. They don’t put away crops in storerooms. But your Father who is in heaven feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than they are? Can you add even one hour to your life by worrying” ~Jesus

The Welcoming Prayer

img_4371Who would have guessed even a month ago that our whole planet would jolt and be forever changed?  Not me. COVID-19, the Coronavirus, is now a trending word worldwide.  It feels like the whole world has changed overnight..

In one day, one hour, Maddie and Whitney lost their last semester of their junior and sophomore year at k-state.  They both lost their jobs at the preschool they worked at together.   They went from growing independence to dependence.  Belle can’t go back to school either, the rest of her freshman year in high school over in a snap.  I asked her this morning how her and her friends were feeling about it, and she said, “None of us knows what to do or how to feel”. All of their hang out places and spaces are gone.  Parents don’t want groups of kids at their house, so that’s out too.

As a mom, it hurts my heart so much to see what the girls have worked so hard for be put out in a second, without much direction or comfort in knowing what lies ahead.    These losses hurt.

I find myself thinking that despite all of it, our own losses are nothing.  Absolutely nothing compared to what many are going through right now.  We have a home.  We have food. We are reasonably healthy.  We have enough. We truly have so much to be grateful for.  Gratitude lists are so important in times of crisis and chaos.

While yes, we do have all those things, along with the hope Jesus gives, there is still a whole lot of room for grief.  We are not heroes if we don’t grieve or allow some sadness to surface.  Putting on a happy face despite all that is churning beneath the surface is not always helpful.

In my own circles, I can see and feel a rage growing in people.  Hoarding, complaining, menacing, arguing, etc. are all reactions to fear and sadness. It’s important for all of us to steward those feelings and recognize what is causing them.  The Welcoming Prayer is something that I turn to when what is happening around me is confusing. I welcome all of it, knowing that everything that happens to me is something I can learn from, and grow because of.

The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events around us. The purpose of the Welcoming Prayer is to deepen our relationship with God through consenting in everything that happens to us and around us.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me today
because I know it’s for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons,
situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for power and control.
I let go of my desire for affection, esteem,
approval and pleasure.
I let go of my desire for survival and security.
I let go of my desire to change any situation,
condition, person or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and
God’s action within. Amen

~Thomas Keating

Grief does not cancel out gratitude.  Grief is a feeling; it is not regulated or to be dismissed by us or anyone.  We all handle grief differently.  For me, it’s going on a walk, solitude, sorting it out in my head before processing with anyone. In those times I can “Welcome” what it is that I am feeling and thinking, and begin to sort through my emotions, thoughts and feelings.    For Belle, it’s singing at the top of her lungs while driving down a long road with some friends.  For my older girls, it’s sitting in their newly established independence, just being with their people in their grief, comforting one another by just being.

What I think is most important right now is to remember that Jesus, our lord and savior, the king of the universe, was called “A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.”(Isaiah 53:3)

Our Jesus knows what it is to hurt, to lose what is most important, to weep. He weeps with us as there is suddenly so much grief and loss in our world.   Know that in your own losses you are not alone.  Literally the world grieves with you.  Jesus sees and cares.  He has so much love to give. 

David and Joseph

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David and Joseph

Joseph was royalty.
He had the blood of kings in his veins.
A chosen king.
As improbable David’s anointing
Was Joseph becoming the Father of the King of Kings.

Carpenters and shepherds. Shepherds and carpenters. Blue collar workers with royalty in their veins because the God of the universe knew

No one
Could achieve true Greatness with their own strength

No one

could earn status in God’s kingdom without His secret ways, His blessings, His miracles

No one is wise enough, powerful enough, perfect enough

To end up the King of Israel
Or the unintended Father to the King

God smiled,
moved some impossible
parts and pieces together
And blew divinity into the line of David. Knocked him to His knees
And to Joseph
He Whispered a similar task
To be the shepherd to the king of kings
David fell, Joseph nodded, God smiled
and a King was born.

Beside The Still Waters And The War of the Worlds

 

 

Most of us know or have heard reference at some point in our lives to Psalm 23.  Bits and pieces come to us when we are feeling afraid, alone, or like we are being attacked by alien spaceships in War of the Worlds.  Ha–I am not joking that part of my subconscious sees the Priest in the old War of the Worlds movie walking toward the evil-eyed spaceship quoting the 23rd psalm. Then he gets zapped and turns to dust.   It scared me to death as a kid.  I always wondered why he was not using his brain and kept walking toward the ship instead of away.  At that point in the movie, I think the behavior of the aliens pretty consistently proved they were bad guys…so, while all of you are reading through psalm 23 with floating streams and quiet places and vivid images of gentle shepherds leading their sheep through grassy knolls, I’m thinking about the poor priest who got turned to dust.

Anyway…

I’m thinking that alien space ships were not on King David’s radar when he wrote his prayer to God, but maybe something like it.  A deeply distressing time that brought him to his knees, seeking the comfort his true Shepherd could bring.

So, however we get to Psalm 23 and whatever makes us think about it, the truth is the same.  God, our good, good God, will lead us in quiet places and walk with us in silence while the peace of the streams bring life back into our weary souls.  Nowhere in Psalm 23 does it say “Then God shouted at me because I’ve been such an idiot”, or “God threw me into the quiet stream and held my head under until I gurggled” I give up!”

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What this Psalm DOES say, all our own vivid imagery and associations with this familiar passage aside, is:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
     He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
     he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
 Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.

Take a deep breath, breath in the Hope of a loving God who will walk quietly with you wherever you are on your path.  Know He’s with you.  Breathe and Hope.

Hope

*Grace and Peace*

With You Always

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I had surgery on my ankle this week to fix the tendon that was 90% torn and 10% hanging on for dear life. Needless to say, it’s been a painful few months in many ways. Rob’s dad passed away two weeks ago…a devastating loss to our family. We will miss Papa so much. Seeing his chair empty at Thanksgiving was so difficult for all of us.

The physical pain I’ve been dealing with as well as the heartache pain of losing one so dear to all of us has been very hard. We’ve also been dealing with the pain of leaving GCC, a church family we have been a part of for twenty-one years.

I’m completely confined to bed for five days, which leaves a lot of time for thinking.

What do all these losses have in common? What are they trying to teach me? I’m not really sure about how they are all connected, but each loss is significant in it’s own respect, varying levels of pain come with each loss.  I know I’ll get my foot back eventually.  I know Rob will get a new job, that we will find a new church family to be a part of, that our time at GCC for the past few decades has given us the gift of lifelong friends that we will always cherish no matter where we may end up.

We will see Papa again, in Heaven someday. He will be healthy and strong and his eyes will shine with light and life. I am looking forward to seeing him again, we all are.  We have hope.

On this side of eternity, there is no guarantee of a pain free life. We all deal with pain and loss and death because all things are being redeemed, and will not be set right until Jesus makes all things new in His time.  I’m learning to trust that His ways and His timing are perfect. He never promised that on this side of eternity all things would be perfect.  He did promise He would be with us through it all.

In His last words to His diciples before He went back up to Heaven, Jesus promised, ” I am with you always, even to the end of the age.(Matthew 28:20)

He promised He’d be here.  God with us. Through death, loss and pain. Through the good times and the bad. He’s given us His presence, to comfort us, to guide us, to never leave us. Sometimes it feels like God is hard to find, in the middle of dealing with so many losses, it’s hard to see God through pain. But He’s there. I know He is. His presence is with me, sometimes I just have to be still to remember.

  My friend Nancy sent me this quote this morning, and it fit so well with what I was thinking about, I’ll share it here as a final thought for you to dwell on today:

“There is a really deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well,and God is buried beneath. Then God must be dug up again. I imagine that there are people who pray with their eyes turned heavenward. They seek God outside themselves. And there are those who bow their heads and bury it in their hands. I think that these seek God inside.”

~Etty Hillesum