Light a Candle

“I am waiting in a silent prayer, I am frightened by the load I bear in a world as cold as stone. Must I walk this path alone?…Breath of Heaven, lighten my darkness…”

This time of year… family, friends, decorations, lights, trees, gifts, music, yummy spicy smells, cookies…Christmastime. So many love to start celebrating early each year and keep the Christmas music going and the tree and lights up through winter. We all love the storybook Christmas.

But this time of year is also sadness and loneliness for so many — often magnified because of all of the lovely holiday trappings. Life doesn’t stop because it’s Christmas. Every year, I seem to be more acutely aware of this side of Christmas, of the messiness of life, of those who are hurting. I can take cookies, send gifts, say words of encouragement, pray for peace and healing — but the sadness and pain are still there. There are those walking through a dark night of the soul, and Christmas lights don’t take that darkness away.

There are so many.

But God…

For He is Light. Jesus. He knows the pain and the loneliness and the darkness. And for those of us who love Christmas let us remember why we love it. All the fluffy things are wonderful. But God became flesh in the midst of a dark and hopeless world. He is the Christmas Light. He gives hope  —  because we all need it.

So each night during this season, I light a candle for those whose hurt is magnified during Christmas, and I’ll pray for some small comfort, some small light to guide them.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9:2

 

candle

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Sensitive and Deep

“I should have been a great many things, Mr. Mayer.” Jo March

Sometimes, I think I missed my calling.

Actually, maybe I missed more than one:

  • In 6th grade, I was going to be an actress.
  • In 9th grade, I was going to be a singer. And I fell in love with Dan Fogelberg.
  • In 11th grade, I was going to be a philosopher. No, I was a philosopher. I wrote “poetry” and prose and recorded all of my save-the-world plans. I even wrote down in numerous journals all of the emotions and oh so deep thoughts that I just knew very few people had ever had in the history of the world. I even sat in a tree with my guitar and sang John Denver songs for hours at a time. IN A TREE! JOHN DENVER! (My mother loved that one and told that story for years).
  • At one point, I even had the idea that having a nudist colony would be the answer to ridding society of shallowness. Oh brother!
  • In college, I was going to work with special needs children. (Looks like I’m making progress on saving the world here).
  • Later in college, I wanted to work in the inner city with the poor. Not only work with them, but live there and love them to Jesus.
  • After college, I came really close to working in a school in Belize, ministering to and teaching children in a poor village. (Getting closer!).

A lot of years have come and gone since my aspiring actress days and those sensitive and deep high school journals. I’ve been so busy doing so many other things than what I thought I’d do that I haven’t had time to regret not following through on all the things I dreamed about. I ended up working at a camp, loving on kids and seeing their lives changed. (I also worked with horses, but their lives didn’t change very much). During those summers, I acted, sang, taught philosophy, cried with and hugged children who were rich in material things but poor in spirit. I met the man I married. I had five children, began homeschooling, built and lived in a country cottage, and learned how to garden. I delivered meals to shut-ins and volunteered with a local food and assistance ministry.  I went on mission trips to poor villages and helped build houses, community centers, and a school.

So I guess all in all, I have been a great many things. My calling didn’t change, and I never missed it. I changed and began to live what I was truly called to, without even knowing it.

My heart-song is of gratefulness  – thanksgiving for all the challenges, laughter, tears, late into-the-night discussions about life, all that I’ve taught, all that I’ve learned, and all that is still out there for me to learn. I know we are always called to be sensitive to the needs of others, to praise of God, to learn and grow in grace, to give those around us a taste of beauty. To share the depth and breadth of God’s love.

I still listen to Fogelberg – but I’m so very thankful that I didn’t try to follow through on the nudist colony. The world is a much, much better place because of it!

Dedicated to Sue, my dear friend and one of the most sensitive and deep people I know.

Good-bye, Comfort Zone

Lately, I’ve been asking God why we are here, in Denver. Other than my husband’s job. OK, I guess that’s a pretty big one, but I know there has to be something more than just that. Why would God take us away from our home, the one we built with our own hands, the one we made home for 27 years? The one where we raised our kids, laughed, cried, built a pet cemetery, held neighborhood carnivals, held church meetings, rented rooms, hosted missionaries, planted gardens?

Yes, I have been asking that question – a lot. Moving into a house so unlike the one we left, leaving our cottage in the woods, leaving friendships we nurtured over so many years, leaving behind… leaving behind the life we made there. Leaving behind…

But we are here…and there must be a reason, an eternal one. And although the answer has been there in my heart all along, and has even popped up several times, I’ve quickly just put it right back where it came from, thank you very much. But yesterday, not only did I hear the answer, I also heard the solution. Our pastor gave it to me, although he didn’t know I even had a question. We are here because we have been sent. Sent. And I need to own my “sentness.” Yes, I need to continue to ask Him the question, Why have You sent me here? but with a different focus. I need to focus on my delivery. If I linger too long in the other place, I won’t be able to deliver on the task, the mission of sent.

This is a new and different place, a place I never dreamed I’d be. But if I have to be anywhere, I’m thankful that I’ve been sent by the God of the universe, because He knows exactly why I’m here. Jesus was sent, and He sends us, every day. He has given me a job, an eternal one. And He wants me to ask the question, regularly. Daily. But when I ask, the focus is not on the inconvenience or the change or the difference; it’s on the true answer, on whoever it may be. Maybe the neighbors next door, or the person I see in the coffee shop, or other parents who need encouragement. I’m given opportunities daily to deliver on sent. Am I going to ask the question at the right time with the focus on delivery? Or will I continue to look back and think about what we left behind?

Oh Lord, make me worthy of sent…give me a heart to deliver your Love and Grace, wherever I am, wherever is Home.

A true testimony

I love my teenagers…and their friends. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years, and I hope that maybe I’ve taught them a thing or two. One thing I’ve heard more than once from some of them goes something like this – “I’ve just followed the rules all my life, and if I don’t experience things for myself, I’ll never learn, and I won’t be able to help others.” They equate “experiencing life” with having a dramatic testimony, the I-did-drugs-and-now-I-don’t or I-once-had-an-eating-disorder-and-I’ve-been-healed kind of testimony; and they seem to think they need that kind of testimony in order to be effective. And while it’s true that anything in life we experience can be used by God to help others in similar situations, I feel as if there’s an even more dramatic testimony, one that is harder than any other.

When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He didn’t fall to any of the temptations the enemy tried to hand Him. Nope, not one — He walked away, following the perfect will of the Father. He knew who He was and WHOSE He was, so His ability to walk away showed a depth of relationship and strength of character that anyone would envy. And He had the ammunition He needed for protection…God’s Word. He walked that line unwavering, the line that we as sinful humans just don’t want to follow. We’d rather tell people about how we drifted from it and then recovered our step, thanks to God’s work in our lives.

But how many of us would ooh and aah over someone who actually walked in obedience and didn’t waver? I would, for one. Not that anyone would always stay on track at all times – most of us have chosen badly, paid hard consequences (some harder than others), eventually recovered, and lived to tell about it. And all that is part of life. But the most “dramatic” of all – the one that demonstrates depth and strength and true overcoming – is the one that follows Jesus; the one that stays strong during temptations; the one that walks that straight line; the one who may not have any spectacular worldly events to tell. The one who knows who he is and WHOSE he is, and lives to tell about it…THAT is the true testimony.

It’s just not that simple…

I have a friend who is also a minister and founder of a ministry to war torn countries in Africa. I heard him speak last week with his very thick French accent, but perfect English, and his message was so powerful – full of grace, boldness, power, and gentleness. Yes, all those things together. He spoke of loss…of loved ones, of life, of freedom. He himself lost many family members to the genocide in Rwanda. He had to sweep his family away to safety. He’s been in prison, tortured, beaten, threatened. But his joy is so full and contagious. His life is one that I would not even begin to truly understand…going to a depth that I can only imagine. Nothing simple about his life, nothing simple about his journey. But if you asked him why he has so much joy and contentment in his life, he’d say it is very simple – that his life is full and complete, lacking in nothing, because God has directed him all the way, and he has laid everything at His feet.

My daughter is going through a pretty tough time, and she gets angry when anyone tries to “help” her work her way through it. No one understands, she says, everyone thinks it’s all so simple. No one is going through the same thing. It’s all too complicated, it’s not as simple as everyone says it is.

Well, she’s right. But she’s also only half right. Because there is another side to the coin. One side is very complicated and detailed, and unless you’ve walked in her shoes, don’t try to help her. But the other side is very simple and easy. There is a way out of all the complicated mess. And we all have the opportunity to walk in that direction. When my friend from Africa says he’s found the peace that passes all understanding, it’s because he has received it in the midst of all the complicated messes of life, through Jesus Christ. He in no way minimizes the struggles of others…his whole life is dedicated to helping them. But he has that simple peace of heart and mind that only God can give. He’s lived the hell of hardships, and he chooses to walk hand in hand with Jesus. He probably has to begin that simple walk daily, starting fresh every single day as he wakes up to the harsh reality of a complicated life. But somehow, he does it. Oh, that I can walk in the same direction…that my sweet daughter can do the same.

I heard someone say recently that obedience is God’s love language…”if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments.” No, it isn’t always easy. Sometimes we may think we won’t survive. But God can truly give us a resting place in the midst of it. It’s just that simple.