But God…

There have been many times over the years — and especially lately — I’ve wanted to vent and rant on social media about one thing or another. But because I vowed many years ago not to use facebook in that way, I fight off the temptation.

But believe me…I grapple and struggle with and work through — thoughtfully and prayerfully and often tearfully — all the issues and events going on around us and in this oh-so-much-smaller-and-louder world in which we live. And sometimes when it seems too hard or I get angry, I want to go back on that vow I made and shout from the rooftops. Or I selfishly want to retreat forever.

But I know that neither is an option.

Because no matter how I feel today or tomorrow about a, b, or c, and no matter what changes take place in the world overnight, we have a Great God who is calm and compassionate, and He desires us to be the same. Oh how easily and quickly we forget that our confidence is in Him, no matter what is going on around us.

The nations (and events and evil and fill in the blank) can rage, but in vain, and the authorities and powers-that-be are ultimately not going to win.

So what it comes around to is this: there is no reason to rant or vent or shout. Instead, I need to remember, trust in and rest in the One who is truly in charge. His Grace is sufficient.

The Goodness of God

“God is good when He sends good weather. But God was also good when He allowed my sister Betsie to starve to death before my eyes in a German concentration camp.”  Corrie Ten Boom

Wow Corrie – pretty much 2 extremes. How can the god of good weather be the same god in a German concentration camp?

I’m not exactly sure, except that deep down – way deep – I know it’s true.

When I first read those words, somehow they brought peace to my heart. I don’t know how or why, because when I imagine the suffering and despair in that concentration camp and when I hear in the news about the suffering and despair in the world – my heart aches. But Corrie Ten Boom’s words bring peace? Yes. Yes, they do.

The continuum of God’s Goodness, from happiness to hardship – from weather to death in a concentration camp and everything in between – yes, it is hard to understand why it’s all part of the goodness of God. Too often we don’t recognize Goodness, because we put our circumstances ~ as hard as they often are ~ above what we know about the God who made us, who loves us, and who wants to spend eternity with us. Of course, our initial response and reaction to hard things is often instinctual. But then we need to step back and focus up, because It is in our heart and soul where we experience God’s Goodness no matter what.

And I realize that is also where we experience great pain and sadness. When life throws its curves, which it does all the time, we can choose to give up on the beauty we have at our fingertips – because the circumstances loom so big before us – or we can look deep and know that those circumstances can be transforming, for better or for worse. And while I’m here, I want to live life in the best possible way, whether I’m hoping for good weather at a picnic or doing my best to find peace out of chaos in a concentration camp.

raindropConc campPeace comes easy when life is easy. It’s when we can’t see through the darkness that we need Peace that passes understanding ~ Peace that is so real and so strong that we have joy in the midst of great sorrow.

I have no doubt that my life could have looked very different had I let circumstances rule rather than look deep for what God was doing. I could have let bitterness take over when I was 17 and my dad died in my arms. Or I could have let the confusion I felt in college rule my life when I was so desperately trying to find my feet in my new-found Faith, and I struggled to find those who were like-minded. Or when my friend died from aids. Or…

Sheldon VanAuken, in his beautiful book A Severe Mercy, speaks of wanting to live life in a way where he truly experiences its beauty and heartache – the Heights and the Depths. Life is Heights and Depths – but do we allow ourselves to feel them, learn from them, grow because of them, learn to love deeper? To realize that they are all part of God’s Goodness?

“Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow-creatures, and with itself. To be the one kind of creature is heaven: that is joy and peace and knowledge and power. To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness. Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Choices – those others see, and those only we know about…those internal choices which point us to God’s goodness even when we can’t see it. But His goodness is always there.

Our friends from Rwanda lost family and friends to genocide and aids and eventually escaped to the U.S. Did they think of God’s goodness when they were burying loved ones or running for their lives? Yes ~ because they knew then, as they know now, that the God of the universe loved them, loved those around them, loved their countrymen ~ and that one day, all would be redeemed. When they talk of God and His goodness, joy shines on their faces – and that joy can only come from the Peace that rests deep in their souls and knowing that God is good in the midst of heartache and tragedy.

Corrie Ten Boom lived it in ways that are so hard to comprehend. But something about her words get to the deepest part of my soul, and I get it. Because though we will probably never live or die in a concentration camp, life presents everyday-hells that we must rise above if we are to know that peace that passes understanding. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

We are called to walk alongside those who suffer – with humility, a listening ear, kindness, graciousness, goodness. That is exactly what Corrie and her sister did, while they also suffered.  “You will regret burning bridges like a pyro but you will never regret gentleness” (Jen Hatmaker). The Goodness of God.

 

Here’s the thing…

“Here’s the thing.” So said the illustrious Adrian Monk.

Yep.

Not always sure what the thing is, but I try to figure it out most of the time.

Lately, with our move from TX to CO, I’ve thought a lot about what the thing is. It always has something to do with God and with people. So Sunday, when our pastor asked us what motivates us to finish the race — the race that Paul wrote about — and the race of life in general — I started thinking about the thing again…in light of God and people and His ever present Grace.

What’s the motivation? Love, for God and others; gratitude, for and to God, for so, so much; the ‘training’ I’ve done thus far; the prize. The thing is the race I’m running, the race we’re all running.

What keeps me in the race? Sometimes I’m not sure I know how to run it, much less finish. I get weary. Sometimes I fall. My commitment wavers — in so many areas. Marriage, parenting, relationships, church, life in general, can so often feel like such an uphill climb. But here’s the thing — we don’t do any of these things alone. We have Someone running alongside us. If it was up to me to finish alone, I’d give up every time. Thankfully, even though I fall, even though I get weary, even though I sometimes want to give up, I get up and keep going. I look toward the prize, the One who loves me and believes in me and is waiting for me at the finish line. He is the thing!

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

2 Timothy 4:7

What to pray?

“In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

I got a message yesterday from an old friend. I love hearing from old friends, but this time it was about “one of those things”; he wanted to tell me that our mutual friend’s wife died suddenly in the morning.

I feel great sadness for my friend. He was one of my best friends in college, and since then he’s been through more heartache then most people go through in a lifetime. Some years ago, he lost both parents and a grandmother in a tragic, hard-life scenario. But he picked up the pieces, and although I never met his wife, I’m sure she was the biggest helping-hand God used in his recovery.

All day yesterday, I thought of my friend and the shock he must be feeling. All day, I thought of his son, now a young adult, who must be at a loss to know what to do, what to feel. All day long, I asked God how to pray…what to pray. I really had no words. Still don’t.

But I know there are times when words just don’t work. Sometimes I think they get in the way. Sometimes there are only tears, only groanings. This is one of those times of trust, trust that the Holy Spirit will do the ministering to my friend and his son. God knows what I certainly don’t. They don’t need my words – or those I lack. I know we are here on this earth for each other, to help one another and be a support. But in times like this, the best support we can give is just to be.

Lord, help me to just be – be a vessel to cry out to You for others in their time of need. And when I don’t know what or how to pray, may I trust in your comfort and goodness and mercy.

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.

Beauty

I love beauty. Profound, I know. But I think I’m learning what it really means – to love beauty. We all enjoy the obvious: the fiery sunset, the budding rose, the ringing laughter of a toddler. But what about the part of life that seems so other?

Because there is beauty in Other.

It’s all around us, even in the seeming ugliness of life…in the homeless man on the street corner, or the gnarled hands of an old woman, or the orphan wondering  if she’ll ever have a forever family. At first glance, they seem sad and lonely and tragic – and they are – but underneath is beauty that those of us on the outside looking in can’t see. The street-corner-man’s longing for something better, wanting to connect with someone. Those worn and tired hands the result of years of hard work and determination born out of love and care of family. The tears of the orphan reflecting the hope for a forever family as she wonders if they are out there for her. There is depth in these faces and lives. Longing. Love. Hope. Beauty.

As I grow older, I seem to relate a little, even remotely, to those sad scenarios that catch my breath when I see them. Because God has a Purpose for each of us, no matter how seemingly insignificant or lonely — and we share that — Purpose. No, I haven’t been homeless or crippled or orphaned – but in the Eternal, whether recognized or not – is Light and Life and Hope.  And somehow there is a connection with them, something that transcends the obvious differences. Depth. Beauty.

There is beauty in my desire to be part of that Hope. Even if it only means sharing a cup of cold water in the night or wiping away a tear. It is all around us, whether we see it or smell it or feel it, because God is there. And He sends it to us in small ways, in the hard realities that hit us in life. We only have to look for it and receive.