The Wonder in the Wait

wait

“Waiting helps us see God’s hand in our lives.”

We are in the middle of a fruit of the Spirit series at church. Patience was the topic this past weekend and the statement above is one I’ve been pondering. Yesterday, I shared with some volunteers a time in my own life when a season of waiting opened my eyes to beauty that never would have come about had plans worked out the way I thought they should have worked out.

I’ve experienced two types of waiting in my life. The intentional/deliberate waiting is the kind of holding pattern where we are waiting for more direction and discernment from God before we move. You are waiting for the right door to open up…not just any door. You are waiting for the green light to move forward instead of running out ahead of God. You wait because you know (from experience) how messy life can become if you move first and then ask for God’s blessing on your decision.

The other type of waiting, and the type I’m thinking about today, is the forced waiting. This is when you have no other choice but to wait. The test results from your doctor or the phone call from a potential job are the two examples that come to mind.

Years ago, when my husband and I were trying to have our second child, I found myself in the middle of one of those forced waiting seasons. About a year after our son was born, I quickly conceived but then miscarried a couple of months into the pregnancy.  A short time later we started trying again. And then we waited and waited and waited. About a year later, we discovered from a fertility specialist that there was a valid reason as to why I was having trouble conceiving. Doctors did what they could to help our chances.

During this forced wait, my heart became convinced that one of the ministries the church I was plugged into needed was a Christian based recovery group. I had surrendered an addiction to alcohol a few year earlier and a local secular 12 step group played a significant role in my recovery. I had heard of a faith based 12 step group called Celebrate Recovery and felt strongly that a ministry like this would be beneficial for folks in our congregation who might be struggling with a hurt, habit or hang-up.

One Sunday morning, I approached an Elder friend at our church with this idea.  “Somebody needs to start this ministry.”  And like any good leader, my Elder friend’s response was: “that’s a fantastic idea!  Would you be willing to lead it?”

“Waiting helps us see God’s hand in our lives.”

I had never led a group in my life. I had never even considered it.  I was scared.  Could I possibly do this, Lord? 

Six months later I remember sitting in one of those meetings. It was one of those powerful small group sessions when the air filling the space around you is sweet and tender and perfect. It was as if Jesus had pulled up a chair and what sitting there with us. I remember feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. That night, I told the ladies in the group how we most likely wouldn’t have been sitting there together had life played out the way I would have chosen to write the story.

His hand was all over my waiting.  My plan hadn’t been birthed but His plan had...and that plan was beautiful.  Friendships were being created. Hearts were being healed. Life real life was being formed and reborn in each and every one of us.

What if?

imagine

“Imagination was a way to get inside the truth.”  Eugene Peterson

This was one of the great comments Eugene Peterson made about the Psalms in an interview I watched a couple of months ago when Peterson sat down with Bono. If you’ve never seen this interview, it’s definitely worth your time.

His comment reminded me of a G.K. Chesterton quote:

“…the function of imagination is not to make strange things settled, so much as to make settled things strange; not so much to make wonders facts as to make facts wonders.”

“The trumpet of imagination,” says Chesterton, “like the trumpet of the Resurrection, calls the dead out of their graves.”

 “Then He called a child to Him and had him stand among them.  “I assure you,”He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4

A few thoughts this morning as I thought more about these ideas of imagination and child-like faith.

Imagination points our hearts to hope, to possibilities, and to the beautiful what ifs.  It makes the ordinary…remarkable.  It makes the simple…profound.

“The function of imagination is to make settled things strange.”

What if truth is not conveniently found on the surface but under it, not in plain sight, but hidden?

What if Jesus is more than a compassionate and loving teacher?

What if He is the bread of life?

What if insignificant shepherd boys can slay giants and become king?

What if thieves nailed to crosses can find peace and redemption in paradise?

What if paralyzed hearts are worse than paralyzed legs?

What if they’re not feel good stories but life giving, God-breathed truth?

What if an unseen all powerful, all knowing, all sufficient Savior is as real and as near as the air filling up our lungs?

What if believing opens the floodgate to another world? What if believing takes our black and white thinking and opens our eyes to all the vibrant colors we had no idea were even there?

What if?  

Imagine the possibilities!

It’s reason to dance.
It’s reason to sing.
It’s a reason to proclaim this hope everywhere and anywhere…from the deepest valley, to the highest mountain. 

 

“Insignificant” People, Places & Things

photo-1436915947297-3a94186c8133

Don’t overlook the beauty and the wonder tucked away in the ordinary.

If I had to sum up the lesson I kept hearing while on vacation last week it would be that.

I heard it standing outside the Tenement Museum while visiting NYC.

I heard it while reading my book during our train ride from NYC to Boston, MA.

I heard it while listening to a lady talk passionately about her collection of umbrella covers in Portland, ME.

NYC

At the Tenement Museum we walked through the day and life of two immigrant families; one Jewish family and one Italian family. We toured an old apartment building which had been the actual home for both those families as well as a total of 7000 other immigrants over the course of the apartment building’s life. Our tour guide mentioned how often, in life,  we hear the stories of famous people but this was a tour designed to honor and find the beauty in the life of the ordinary and the everyday person.

Boston

On our train ride from NYC to Boston, I read as Eugene Peterson shared and recounted pivotal moments in David’s life. The stories “serve to train us in the normative, in seeing, accepting, participating in the miracle hidden in the ordinary…”

“There’s something just beneath the surface of everything, something invisible and inaudible but just as real, maybe even more real than what we are seeing, hearing  or touching. Stories are our primary means of exploring the beneath the surface behind the scenes realities that are as present and immediate to us as anything we have access to through out five senses.” Leap Over a Wall page 38

In this book, Leap Over the Wall, Peterson reflects on the life of David.  One reviewer sums up the message of the book like this: “Peterson skillfully uses the David story to talk not about David, but about you and me…the human story in all it’s wonder and terror and pity.” Richard Foster

I read again the story of David selecting five smooth stones from the brook. Saul and his army were overcome by the impossibility of the situation–their minds, hearts, and lives captured by a Goliath dominated imagination. David, however, was captured by a God dominated imagination…humbly and faithfully kneeling at a brook…despite all the chaos and contempt surrounding him.

After reading this story, and as we neared our destination, I stopped to review the directions our airbnb host had emailed us telling us how to get to the place we would call home for the next two nights.

We were to take the orange line metro to the Stony Brook stop.

I smiled.  Of course, Lord, stony brook.

At the end of our time in Boston, I asked my son Sean what his favorite part about our trip was in Boston. I was expecting him to mention one of the places we had visited on the Freedom Trail, but he didn’t. He surprised me when he said it was the neighborhood we would go back to in the evening time…after we left the downtown sights and sounds in Boston. His favorite part was simply walking around Stony Brook

Portland

As we sat and waited to board our train from Boston to Portland, ME, I struck up a conversation with the lady sitting on the bench next to me.  She lived in Portland, ME.  She suggested that during our visit we take the ferry ride over to Peaks Island.

The next morning ,as we sat an ate breakfast, I searched google for things to do on Peaks Island. One of the suggestions was to visit The Umbrella Cover Museum. The more I read about the museum, the more I wanted had to see it.  One lady had collected over 700 umbrella covers. Each cover came with a story of how and where and when she acquired it. Her collection even made it into the Guinness Book of World Record. It was an absolutely insane, crazy and weird idea for a museum…I think this is why I loved it so much. She didn’t collect umbrellas…she collected the insignificant (often tossed out or easily misplaced) covers.  Who would even think of doing this?  Yet, no matter how weird the idea, she sold me with her mission statement:

umbrella cover

Today: Don’t overlook the beauty tucked away in the seemingly insignificant and the ordinary. Don’t dismiss it too quickly…pick it up, study it, and find the wonder hidden below the surface.

One Daughter’s Reflections

dad3
The following words are from a writing challenge I participated in about 5 years ago. They came to mind again this morning as I was thinking about Father’s Day.  I didn’t have the idyllic daddy/daughter relationship. It was far from perfect. It took my dad and I years to get better at it too.  I am thankful my son, Sean, has an affectionate father in his life…my husband has no problem snuggling with his child and telling him and showing him every single day how much he is loved.

My dad had his life changing stroke 4 years ago, about a year after I wrote the words below. Since then, things have changed even more for my dad.  He remembers very little nowadays. He is often confused.  When we talk on the phone he has a hard time remembering where I live or when I came to visit him last.  He thinks he will be going home “any day now.”  However, the one thing he doesn’t forget is to tell me that he loves me.  He must have told me three times during our phone conversation yesterday.

So, I share the words below, written in December 2011, to remind others who may not have had the “ideal” daddy/daughter relationship that…it’s okay.  Sometimes, we don’t have the fairy tale memories. Sometimes, all we have is real and human.  Sometimes, we come to realize how our flawed daddys did and still do the best they know how to do. These far from perfect relationships grow us, they teach us grace, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

Thank you for loving me, Dad.

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The Gifts of the Father
(originally written December 2011)

My dad is not the best gift giver.  For instance, for my birthday this year, I received  a one gallon jug of organic household cleaner.

I love my dad and while it might not be obvious from the above example, I’ve watched him do some growing over the years, both in the gift giving department and other areas too. When the glue of our family, my mom, lost her battle with breast cancer, my dad was left to fill both the mom and the dad role in my life. Prior to my mom’s death, my dad was not very affectionate.  As a child, I don’t remember him ever telling me he loved me…not with those words anyway.

Instead, he showed his love for me and my brothers by providing for us and being strict.  His most effective disciplinary tactic was the  “scary father look.” You know the look, don’t you?  The look that says “if I have to tell you one more time, you will be incredibly sorry.”  I never had a problem respecting this look. But, despite his lack of verbal expression of love, I knew my dad cared deeply for me, my brothers, and my mom.

Eventually, my dad did learn to say the words I love you to me.  I do, however, recall a few failed attempts before he finally succeeded. His earlier attempts came out sounding like this…”Keep one in the chamber.”

One of the gifts my dad gave me as I journeyed off to college, after my mom died, was an old gun.  And, whenever we spoke on the phone, these were the five words he would say to me at the end our conversation before hanging up,  “keep one in the chamber.” Somehow, I knew those words were synonymous to these five words, “be careful, I love you.”  And, I would always respond, “Okay, Dad.” This, of course, was code for these five words, “I love you too, Dad.”

I kept my dad’s  “I love you” gift hidden in my closet. I never actually loaded it. The bullets never came out of the small cardboard box.

On the drive home from work last night, I thought about the first Christmas after my mom died.  It was my dad’s first attempt at gift-giving without my mom’s guidance or tips.  I was standing in the living room Christmas morning and I remember my dad coming into the room carrying a plastic Walmart shopping bag  in one hand while hiding his other hand behind his back.

“Merry Christmas.”  he says and hands me the bag.  I open the bag.  It’s an address book.

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome. Can I have that bag back?  I need to wrap your next gift.”

I hand him the bag, he turns and quickly takes  another item from behind his back and places  it into the bag.  He turns, and hands me the bag again.  I open it again.  It’s another address book, but this one is a little bigger.  “Uh…thanks, Dad.”

“Okay, I need the bag again,” he says.

I hand him the bag and the same scene unfolds.

This time when I reach in the bag, I lift out a giant leather-looking note pad.  But, it isn’t  just any note pad, no, this is a special note pad.  When I opened it, there was this huge…and I mean huge, solar calculator built into the inside cover.

“Thanks, Dad”

Over the years, my dad has learned the beauty of purchasing restaurant gift cards for his kids at Christmas time.  Applebees and Outback are his cards of choice.   He’s even learned to “wrap”  the gift inside a  Christmas card.

He’s come a long way.  And yet, regardless of his gift giving skills, I love him.

He’s my dad.
dad2

Judging at Arm’s Length

alone

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4: 18-19

This verse has been crossing my mind a lot these last couple of days. My family and I have been on vacation this week.  We spent the weekend taking in some sites in New York, we traveled by train to Boston yesterday, and we will be wrapping up our trip visiting Portland, Maine tomorrow.  

We have been logging time in some of the most diverse regions in the country.  

On Sunday morning, we were eating breakfast at a street cafe in the East Village neighborhood of New York when I kept seeing posts on my phone of friends praying for Orlando.  It was then I first read about the horrific events at a nightclub earlier that morning. First we saw 20 fatalities and a few hours later the death toll had climbed to 50. 

This afternoon, an old high school classmate posted, on Facebook, a heart wrenching post about the grief and anger he feels over the events in Orlando. Jeff shared how he had been ridiculed and bullied all his life for being gay. In high school, he did his best to hide and deny being gay because the town in which we lived in was a very conservative military town and the kids in this town were quick to label and ridicule him all through his middle school and high school years.

As I read these words from Jeff, my heart wept.

“I didn’t know what gay was or what fag meant. I just knew it was “bad and gross.” Imagine growing up with that opinion of yourself?!? But, it didn’t matter. The kids in town stuck me with that label. It was a daily triad of kids yelling “faggot,” getting spit in the face, tripped, shoved, made fun of, all for being gay.”

His comment made me think back on how I treated Jeff during our school years. How did I contribute to this labeling?  We were in the marching band together. We both played clarinet. Jeff was sweet and friendly and had a wonderful sense of humor. I knew Jeff was gay long before he ever openly acknowledged it.  And, because of this, I was friendly with Jeff but not too friendly.  I never ever dreamed of calling Jeff names or being mean to him. But, on occasion, I was stand offish and guarded.  I didn’t understand and I judged him…not with my words…but in my heart.  How do I know this?  Because I always kept the relationship an arm’s length away. I never fully accepted or embraced Jeff. It certainly wasn’t blatant or in your face rejection…but it was rejection. I was scared.  I was scared because I didn’t understand.

Another reason I restrained my friendliness was that I was shy, introverted, had a mom who was battling breast cancer and was simply trying to make it through school with the least bit of drama. An arm’s length friendship with someone who I didn’t quite understand was the “safe route” 

I came from a very conservative family upbringing. I was raised in a home by a dad who was quick to judge and quick to label both homosexuals and also those who were not white.  I remember how, in high school, I feared bringing home a black friend for the first time.  What would my dad do?  Would he insult my friend? Would he embarrass me? Thankfully (and somewhat surprisingly) my dad was on his best behavior and I truly believe he genuinely liked and was very respectful of my classmate anytime she was around.  I learned that my dad was often “selectively” racist. My grandmother was always quick to defend my dad too. I would often hear her say of her son: “He grew up in downtown Detroit. He was the only white kid in his class. He had some bad experiences with black kids growing up.”  Even though I have never agreed with my dad’s racist attitudes, I do have an idea as to where his prejudices and labeling may have originated. This by no means excuses or condones them. 

So often our knee jerk reaction is to turn toward judgement if we don’t understand something. A lack of understanding will often produce a level of fear. And that fear prompts us to either lash out or withdraw.

Yet, here’s the thing I’m learning in this life:  Fear, produced by a lack of understanding, is a choice. A lack of understanding could produce love instead.  Because, guess what?  That’s a choice too. “We love because He first loved us”

So that’s my desire. To choose love more and more and more.  It’s not always the “safest route” but it is always the right route. 

Dear Lord, if I err, I want to err on the side of love, radical acceptance, and awkward hugs.

A friendship kept at arm’s length is no friendship at all.

Saw this video a few days ago and decided to include it in this post. I love how just a few minutes of getting to know someone can change everything…

Goal: To Remain in This Tasty Spot Today

taste

What is one food you could eat everyday and never get sick of eating it? It’s a question you hear people ask from time to time. It’s also the question that came to mind this morning after reading a portion of John 6 for the umpteenth time over the last decade. John 6 is like that for me.  I can read it everyday and receive new lessons and fresh enjoyment in the words and the message.

I wasn’t planning on “eating” it again this morning, but as I picked up my Bible it opened up to that section…and I couldn’t resist.  It’s like opening the fridge and seeing a slice of leftover cheesecake.  Oh!  I guess I’ll have a taste! 🙂

As I read through it again, these two thoughts captured my heart.

Thought #1

What can we do to perform the works of God?” they asked.
Jesus replied, “This is the work of God—that you believe in the One He has sent.” – John 6: 28-29

The simplicity of these words and this response from Jesus is a breath of fresh air for my soul. Can you see why I eat them up?

You know what I require of you, Eileen?  Just believe me.  Live your days, live your life, believing Me.

Belief is the oxygen required to fan the flame.

Thought #2

Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Moses didn’t give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the real bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”– John 6: 32-33

The One who comes down from heaven.

I read these verses and the song lyrics playing on my heart yesterday morning came to mind. I shared them at the end of yesterday’s blog post.

Heaven, heaven fall down
Spirit, Spirit pour out
On us all now
Heaven fall down

Jesus is the bread that comes down from Heaven. He rains down on us. He pours out His Spirit when we perform the work of simply believing Him. He alone satisfies our hunger.

Lord, I want to live and move and breathe right from here today… right from this spot.  

I don’t need to strive.  I don’t need to prove.

Taste and see that the LORD is good! How blessed is the person who trusts in him!- Psalm 34:8 

Breadcrumbs and the Beauty of Leftovers

Driving om empty road under the rainbow

“Faith inhales and then exhales the very breath of God.”

I read those words in my devotional yesterday morning.  It made me think of the song lyrics. “This is the air I breathe… I’m desperate for You.”  I sung those words silently inside my head.

A few hours later I was sitting in staff chapel at work and singing the words to that same song. The tears rolled down my cheek as I allowed the beauty of this truth wash over me again…His Presence is constant.

This morning I thought about all the breadcrumbs I spotted along the path yesterday morning even before getting to work and singing that beautiful song again.  So many reminders that our Creator most certainly cares about the details of our day. The familiar story of Jesus feeding the crowd of 5000 with five loaves and two fish came to mind.  What I love most about this account is what happened after the crowd ate and were full.

“Everyone ate and was filled. Then they picked up 12 baskets full of leftover pieces!” Matthew 14:20

Breadcrumbs, Lord.  Your glory and goodness overflow!  Time after time, I’ve watched You pour out Your generosity and Your redeeming love into my life and into the lives of others. And most of the time, it’s more than our minds and our hearts can even imagine.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” Ephesians 3:20

Today is June 8.  I realized yesterday that this is the anniversary of two significant events since moving to Georgia. It was three years ago today that we said good-bye to my husband’s mom.  She took her last breath in this life on a Saturday night.  Even though it was my husband’s home state, Georgia had only officially become my home just 10 days prior to my mother-in-law’s death. We had been brought back to Georgia for such a time as this. I am certain of it.

Today also marks the one year anniversary of walking through the doors at Rock Bridge Community Church to begin my new job and a new journey.  I can not believe it has been a year. The time has flown by. I’ve shared this before, but I still drive up the street toward work in a state of awe at how God was able to use all the valleys, detours, and wrong turns in my own life and somehow, by His grace, bring me here.  Nothing is wasted. Our Redeemer…redeems.

He blesses more than we deserve and so much more than we can take credit…and it humbles me everyday.

He feeds us until we are full and then the “leftovers” continue to fill our baskets.

********

Last night I was thinking how one date on a calendar can hold both memories of pain and loss and also memories of joy and new chapters.  Beauty mixed with pain.  It’s a concept and a part of life I seem to never get tired of thinking about. 

*******

This morning I woke up with these lyrics playing on repeat in my heart.

Heaven, heaven fall down
Spirit, Spirit pour out
On us all now
Heaven fall down

Extravagant Love Notes

love

Facebook has an “On This Day” app that I’ve grown to appreciate.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve reread something and it’s prompted me to be grateful or stirred joy over a past memory.  The other day, this memory from six years ago (when my son was 6 years old) popped up:

Today’s Seanism “Mom, I was flipping thru your Bible & for a split second I thought the Book of Romans said Book of Romance & I thought eww.

The memory made me laugh.

Then, today, the memory I shared two years ago was a post I wrote called Romancing the Heart of Stone  In that post I shared how the word “romance” from a Rend Collective song that I love reminded me of how the Lord pursues us with His love and chips away at hardened or calloused hearts. Here’s an excerpt of what I shared in that post about some of the song lyrics.

Beauty awakens by romance

I thought about how God’s pursuit of us really is a journey of our eyes and heart being awakened to the beauty and presence of Him in our lives. The next thought I had as I ran along was the name of a popular movie from the 80s Romancing the Stone. Then, my mind edited the title to Romancing the Heart of Stone. I smiled as I thought more about this new movie title. I think it could be a good description for many of the journeys we each must take with the God who loves us. He romances the heart of stone…chipping away at it little by little, polishing down the rough and jagged parts, and finally…beauty.

Today, I am thankful for the countless chances I (we) are given. I am thankful for the grace that makes all those chances even possible. I’m thankful He doesn’t give up on our hardened, distant or questioning hearts. He sees our potential. He see’s our worth, and He romances us until our hearts begin to see glimpses of it too.

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As I thought more about these two memories I realized that the Book of Romans really could be the Book of Romance…even though the idea grossed out my then six-year-old son!

Many of the things the Apostle Paul had to say addressed the great lengths God had gone in order to woo and capture the hearts of His children. His message to the Romans was this:  The way of salvation was not found through keeping the law but through a relationship with Christ. Paul shared how hearts needed to be transformed and circumcised and this was accomplished through faith and belief in Christ and in the love He demonstrated for humanity through the cross.

In the Book of Romans, Paul shares the greatest of love stories between Creator and His creation. Sin, death and separation lose. Faith, life, and relationship triumph. And, this is not because of what we would need to accomplish but because of what was already accomplished on our behalf. There is no doubt that some of the words in this book, this letter, would have been (and continue to be) challenging to hear…especially for folks who wanted to continue trying to play a part in their own salvation by checking off a list of rules to follow or laws to adhere to.

Yet the most beautiful of love stories tells the truth…even if it’s hard to embrace or understand fully.

What then are we to say about these things?
If God is for us, who is against us?
He did not even spare His own Son
but offered Him up for us all;
how will He not also with Him grant us everything?
Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect?
God is the One who justifies.
Who is the one who condemns?
Christ Jesus is the One who died,
but even more, has been raised;
He also is at the right hand of God
and intercedes for us.
Who can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can affliction or anguish or persecution
or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?
 As it is written:
Because of You
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
 No, in all these things we are more than victorious
through Him who loved us.“For I am persuaded that not even death or life,

angels or rulers,
things present or things to come, hostile powers,
height or depth, or any other created thing
will have the power to separate us
from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord!” Romans 8: 31-39

The Book of Romans:  one outrageous, extravagant love note.

*******

After writing this post, I dropped my son off at his soccer camp before heading into work. This great song “Your Love Awakens Me” began playing on the car radio. We sang it for the first time in church a few weeks ago. Awaken us, Lord!

The Moment Something Begins To Happen

hope

“You’re nothing, God, but a mirage,
a lovely oasis in the distance– and then nothing!” Jeremiah 15:18

“That is Jeremiah at prayer: scared, lonely, hurt, angry. A surprise? The indomitable Jeremiah praying like that? All of us experience these things. No one alive is a stranger to them. But do we pray them? Jeremiah prayed them. Everything he experienced and thought he set in relationship to a living, knowing, saving God. And the moment these things are set in relationship to God something begins to happen.”  Run with the Horses (Page 100-101)

I read this section in my book last night and immediately underlined it and wrote TRUTH! in the margin.

“Everything he experienced and thought he set in relationship to a living, knowing, saving God. And the moment these things are set in relationship to God something begins to happen.”

I absolutely love this reminder.

After a decade of living on the run, with blinders on, with cotton stuffed in my ears and with a big wall of pride around my heart…THIS is what changed everything for me.

When I finally stopped running, when I finally decided to bring every ugly, angry, scared, doubtful thought to God…something began to happen in me and in my life.  

Years ago, I shared the lesson I learned from this choice:  “It was at this crucial point when I was so tempted to turn the volume down and walk the other way that I needed to listen to God and cling to Him even tighter. Our human tendency is to rebel and do it our own way. Listening to God even when it hurts takes courage.”

And we can only listen to God, when we choose to be in His presence…to come to Him with all that junk that tells our rebellious, prideful, fear-filled selves to walk the other way instead.

Can I encourage you and I to do one thing today when we are tempted to shake our heads and retreat?

Stick around.

Talk to Him.  Scream at Him.  Tell him all the reasons you don’t agree with Him. Throw a tantrum in the middle of the living room floor if you must…just don’t walk away.  

BECAUSE

“the moment these things are set in relationship to God…to a living, knowing, saving God…something begins to happen.”

Happy Thoughts

pain

I noticed something over Memorial Day weekend I hadn’t noticed before. There seems to be a number of folks who are offended when people use the word “happy” in front of Memorial Day. The justification is that this day is a day of somber remembrance of the countless lives that have been lost and therefore nothing happy about it.

I have to respectfully disagree.  I think this gives me every reason to be happy. It’s the same reason I could be filled with joy this past weekend while running through a battlefield where 32,000 lives were lost over 150 years ago. When I reflect on how someone else’s pain and incredible sacrifice made possible the moments of beauty and life of freedom I have the opportunity to enjoy today, then what else can I be but happy and eternally grateful?

As many of you know, I write a lot about redemption and how beauty and pain are often woven together. Over the years, I’ve grown to embrace this aspect of life. We can’t compartmentalize life. I hate that there’s pain. I hate that there’s death. I hate that loved ones in our lives are taken away too soon. I hate that kids grow up without parents or parents must grieve the loss of their son or daughter. Those are just a handful of the many reasons I should not be happy.

And yet, even with all the pain and all the loss, I am compelled to seek out the beauty, to dig it up like treasure, to grab hold of it and refuse to let go.

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I wasn’t planning on turning this post into a post about Christ but that seems to be where my heart is going right now. I think this is why Christians can look at Good Friday and the cross and rejoice and not despair…because the sacrifice of One, the unthinkable pain inflicted on One, has made freedom possible and accessible for all.  How can I not be happy?  How can I not cling to this beauty?

Jesus preached a way of life that sounded off the wall crazy to people who heard him speak. From the Sermon on the Mount to the thief next to him on the cross, He preached a counter-culture message.  He came and he turned the world and our perspectives upside down.

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Not sure how to end this post other than to say, I will continue to look for the beauty hidden beyond the pain and the suffering of this world.  I will look for it. I will grab hold of it because in doing so I know I will find a beauty that will never die. I will find a beauty that will continue to bring joy and hope and peace to my heart… despite the countless reasons telling me this can’t be.

 

“I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else.” Colossians 2: 2-3 Message