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.

 

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What Happened to Womanhood?

The following commentary speaks volumes – and since it is my birthday, I’m posting it because this is a topic I feel passionate about. I’ve written about it, but never published what I’ve written — so when I read this by Cal Thomas, it pretty much sums up my thoughts. Thank you, Cal.

http://www.worldmag.com/2013/10/america_s_smelly_sewer_ceiling

So sad, but too often so true in today’s culture. Women have traded true freedom and empowerment for a counterfeit ‘freedom’ and are no longer respected – and the place they have lowered themselves to is on more of a level with animals than with humans made in God’s image. The days when it was wonderful to be treated as a princess by a man, to be revered and honored and adored – gone. In trying to prove something, self-respect is gone and womanhood has been redefined. We hate what we see in other parts of the world where men treat women like property, and we should hate that. But what has happened here? Women have turned themselves into property, disposable, void of responsibility, depth, and worth.

I plan to enjoy my birthday today – not only think of the sad state of our society. Because amidst the sadness and moral divide, there is still eternal Hope, and I’m grateful.

 


					

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.

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.

Saying goodbye…

I went to have a cup of coffee with my mom this morning; instead, I said goodbye – for the last time. I went to see her, knowing that she hadn’t been well, and when I arrived, she was unconscious and couldn’t be roused. I know she could hear me, because when I called her name, she tried to answer – and when I told her to “wake up”, she groggily said “I’m awake.” But she couldn’t open her eyes or even move her head. I didn’t know at the time that she was saying goodbye to life as she’d known it for 90 years.

The other day, a friend asked me how I want to die. I hadn’t expected the question, so my answer was somewhat thoughtless; “quickly” was my response. Not that I necessarily want to die soon – but when it’s time, I want to go quickly, not linger knowing what’s inevitable. He gave us (his class…I was visiting a favorite professor from college) a challenge by telling us the story of his dad – how when he found out that he had only a couple of months to live, he decided to spend the time “saying goodbye” to friends and loved ones, drinking coffee, catching up – maybe doing whatever was necessary for him and the others to feel as if they were finishing well with their relationships and enjoying what time was left.

I thought about that a lot, and I like it. I also thought about my response to his question, and I think I’ll stick with my answer. But I think I’ll amend it a bit and take up his challenge this way: I hope that before I die, whenever that is, I’ll feel as if my relationships are healthy and enjoyable and as caught up as possible in today’s fast-paced world. I hope I can be a blessing to those around me, and in turn be blessed because of others, whether I see them regularly or never again. I hope I’ll be able to live well and finish well with each of them, whether they’re a mile away or a continent. And I hope I’ll feel “comfortable” with death knowing that I’ve lived as unto the Lord and that I’ll go to a better place.

I guess I just want to have the confidence of knowing that all is right with the world in my relationships. I want the people I love to know how grateful I am for each of them and that I cherished every minute with them — and that those cups of coffee we shared meant more than just having a hot drink.

So I said good-bye to my mom…not over coffee, as I would have liked — but I hope she was ready, with enough pots of coffee behind us to know that we were all caught up and finishing well.