Thursday, October 27, 2016

{ I've Heard the Whisper ... }

Nobody likes to sit in the dark.

That’s what I tell him as I flip on the light so he can clearly see his granola bar, handful of Froot Loops and his Star Wars vitamins.

No one wants darkness.  It’s heavy and depressing.  Oppressing. It feels sneaky and devious. It can feel scary and hopeless.  It’s a wet blanket on the warm fire of a sun-filled day. It snuffs out all the hope and brilliance, ideas and dreams, that you had during the day. In the dark it all shifts. It all feels worn and tired, old and pointless; you feel lost in a forest of trees with eyes and faces and arms and you wonder why you ever thought you could find your way out or change the world.

The darkness can be such a storyteller of lies.

The darkness can be such a sanctuary for the Teller of all the lies. 

And the darkness can be banished... just. like. that.

“Let there be light.”

God proved in the very beginning, before elephants and man and oceans and babies... He proved first that beyond creating, beyond teaching leaves how to change colors and birds how to migrate and tides to come in... He showed first that He had power over darkness.  Over the void.  Over the nothingness.  

He was and He is and His command, whether spoken or thought, caused the black to tuck its tail and go running.  Skittering into complete oblivion.  Not just hiding.  Not just slipping under a couch or behind a cloud or into a closet for awhile... completely unable to skirt around God’s whispered but thundrous command. Go and it went. 

I find I’ve been holding my breath.  While I’m reading, while I’m writing, while I’m starting laundry. I’m holding my breath and I think it’s because it feels like I’m holding my heart together.  Like if I just pull it all in, the fragments of my heart won’t splinter off and stab themselves through my skin.  

Not that my grief is or can be hidden, but somehow I think that’s what my poor little heart thinks. If I just hold it in... maybe it’ll go away.  Maybe I can have the power to banish all that, too.  Maybe I can pretend that it’s all a terrible, awful dream and I’m going to wake up. 

Surely I will wake up soon.

My lungs are screaming and I don’t even realize it. My sister held me and rubbed my back and whispered, “Just breathe deep.  Deep breaths.” And I didn’t even know I wasn’t breathing.

The darkness dwarfed, outweighed, everything. 

It’s so heavy and I drop everything just to hold it against me. I don’t know what else to do. It’s just there, like a bundle shoved in my arms, bags and bags of heavy groceries and burden and it’s just there, hanging in my hands, slipping heavy off my fingers, and I just stand and hold my breath and hold it all. I don’t know what to do with it. Where to set it down. Where to put it away.

We all have said it in the past week. What do we do? Where do we go? What do you need, what can I do? What can I do, what can I do... 

How do we fix it, explain it, redeem it? It’s silly, but our desperation whispers it quiet in the back, in the farthest room away, we hear it through the walls of our selves... how do we get her back? How do we reverse it?

And we can’t. And the darkness, if you let it, will fill your empty cup to overflowing.

I drag it all out from under my bed on the drive home. I sing it out and cry it out and pray it out. I talk it out and try to think it out. The sun beats down on my dusty minivan and I just want to go home. I want a hug. I want my babies and kindness and someone to be gentle with me, because I’m so thin right now. I feel like I’m transparent and I’m walking around just waiting on someone to step on some stray piece of myself that I’m suely dragging and I know, I know, it will all come unraveling and spinning unwound around my ears.

I pull into Chick-Fil-A for lunch. Opt for a sweet tea over an iced coffee from Starbucks. Why? Because I just wanted someone to be so, so nice to me. I nearly cried with how decently they added my chicken sandwich to my order, did I just want pickles, or could they add tomato and lettuce, too? How they asked if they could help me with anything else (No, no, you can’t. I wish, I wish...) how they wanted a name for my order, how they wished me to have a good day, how they thanked me for letting them serve me today. Tears bit at the insides of my eyelids and I bit on my lip to keep it away. Held my breath, again.

“You’re not going to cry just because someone was nice to you as you bought waffle fries.”

But... in all of this. Guys, that’s all I know. That’s all I know is to be unendingly kind, unceasingly compassionate, unwaveringly aware that we’re all fighting battle after bloody battle. And if we’re not careful with each other, if we’re not open with the tender and open with the acceptance and honest with the truth and the real, the darkness wins. It swallows all the good, all the winning that could come.  That should come.  If we let it, the memories we shared and the laughter we hold onto and the things we love about the bright, funny, creative, talented, joy-giving that we lost... we will lose us.

We will lose on what could be the most beautiful, extraordinary, unexpected, ripple effect ever.  Ever ever.

It only takes one to start it. One drop. One stone. One bubble on the water. 

And it all quakes and lets go and trembles across the surface. Changing the entire thing. Changing the view of things forever.  If you’re watching. If you’re paying attention. If you’re willing to go forward and let go of the rewind.

None of us know how. None of us know how to exist in a new normal when your old normal felt just fine. Just beautiful. Just kind of perfect. But we’re here now and the path is set before us and I watch a new way eat away at the night. The sun struggling up in the midst of a foggy, dusky morning.

And I’m with the sun, struggling to stand on shaky legs in the light of a new day, a shadowy, fog-filled Wednesday. It’s just another day like any other day, but unlike any other day. I’m the same but different. Unprepared. Unexplainable. Just here, beating and breathing and questioning and going on, kind of. 

Every step feels like a betrayal. Every moment of peace I feel, betrays a moment that she didn’t. Every joke I laugh at, every mundane task that I do, every phone call or text to a friend, feels like a tragedy. Like I’m cheating on memory. Cheating on love. And I’m not, I’m just living, but in the face of death, of letting go, of an unprepared for end, we’re all left hanging and living and walking and breathing shallow. And it all feels like a beautiful, tragic, unfair scene.

We keep replaying and simulatenously trying to fast forward, and it’s the in between that has us such a wreck. What do we do with now? We knew what to do then, or thought we did, we know all the things everyone says about the future - that time will heal, that time will tell, that time will give us perspective and more chances to love - but right now? What do we do with the right now? It’s always the inbetween that gets sticky. A little lost or misdirected.

Dark.

But... 

And I smile. Just a little.  Feel it just a bit around the edges.

But... God.

A few weeks ago, I read it to my son before he hopped on the bus with the exuberance only a six-year old can muster at 6:45 a.m. I read how many times that phrase is in the Bible, how the story looks to be this, seems to be that, the whole pot stirring one direction and you think you know the outcome... and then it all changes. The atmosphere itself melts a little, submits. It was this and going to be that, BUT GOD.

It’s dark and feels hopeless... but God.
It’s confuisng and unfair... but God.

And I stutter it to myself, I have for days. “But, God..” but, but. We didn’t get this chance. We didn’t get that warning. We didn’t pick up, weren’t grateful enough, weren’t loving, weren’t present, we just... weren’t. Enough. And the fears and the excuses and the regret bubbles against our bitten lips.  We’ve been biting our lips for days. Trying to keep it in. Trying to let it out. The ragged edges of grief dragging itself up and down our spines, rubbing us raw.

It’s all perspective. Night and day.

The hesitant, fearful, trembling, “But God...” and the tearful, trusting, hanging onto a sliver, or maybe just the simple idea, of hope, “But God...” Can You change this? Can You redeem this? Can You show us what we need to know in all of this, in this hard, hard story?

I nod in the dim dark, the dim light, of my music/office/sanctuary.

Yes.  I believe He can. I believe He will.

The rain splatters like heavy tears onto my sidewalk, onto the roof of my house. The gutters catching and running free, the earth soaking it up, the Fall leaves dancing and almost twirling, like hundreds of tiny dancers on tiny limbs... and I think of her and I think of all of us and I think of God.

I think of what we had and give thanks. I think of what will be... and give thanks.

And I watch the dark run.


"Now the earth was formless and empty,
darkness covered the surface of the watery depths,
and the Spirit of God was hovering over 
the surface of the waters..."
~  G e n e s i s   1 : 2


"He will carry the lambs in his arms,
holding them close to his heart..."
~ I s a i a h   4 0 : 1 1  




Thursday, September 29, 2016

{ You Don't Miss a Thing }

There are days when things feel a little winsome.  A little magical.  When I feel like I am those things in those days.  That there is an otherwordly grasp.  A song I can’t hear, have never heard, but completely know.  Every chord.  Every strain.  Every dotted half note.  I hang on every tone as though it’s a good word.  I’m walking around, but I feel like I’m dancing.  I am dancing.

Today was one of those days. It didn’t start out in an extraordinary fashion, but then again, maybe it did.  It started dark and early, like every morning. I actually pushed myself out of bed even earlier in an effort to have a come to Jesus moment. I wanted it. Needed it. Went looking for it, like a nighttime snack.  But instead of my head in the freezer searching for the next pint of mint chocolate chip, my hands were around a mug and my heart was looking for Him.  Expecting Him. 

I read some verses. Said a small prayer. Waited for the alarm to get my oldest up for school, since the sun wouldn’t be up for awhile, yet. I waited.  Told myself to hold in the pause.  To not fight it.  Just let myself be quiet.  Maybe that’s what He wanted me to experience.  Just quiet.  So I held my mug and watched the clock and tried to push away the to-do’s that were already rudely interrupting, begging for my attention.

Over breakfast I read devotions to Joel, just like I always do.  What else do you do at 5:50 a.m. when you’re sitting in your dining room, staring at each other in the dark? He munches a NutriGrain bar. I finish off my coffee.  And I read about the moments in the Bible - the “But God” moments.  The times when things looked like they were headed one direction, but then it all swevered.  It was this and that, but then, God.  He showed up. Shifted the trajectory.  Started playing a whole new song.

As I walk him to the end of our drive to wait for the bus, I hold my phone in my hand. In the weeks since school started, I haven’t done this once.  But I took it with me, anticipating something worth taking a picture of.  The sky was alight with stars and our house glowed like it’s own little city on a hill (except it’s not on a hill).  Once the bus pulled away with my six year old, I stepped across the gravel road into the edge of the neighboring field.  Snapped a photo of my home sweet home against the dusky sky.  Felt thankful for my sweet family and the home we built last year, that my husband and I designed all by ourselves.  Hoping that when I got in the house, the smallest were still sleeping.  Maybe I could have just a little more peace? Hang on to whatever seemed to be bobbing right in front of me?

I had a friend from church planning to show up in a couple hours.  She was sweetly bringing me Starbucks.  I had gulped down my insecurities and my silliness and went live with a request to my team that they pray for me.  My anxieties were riding high and panit attacks were heavy on my chest, clawing at my throat.  My introverted nature made it hard to open up and even harder to allow someone to come and care for me, even if it was just a Grande Iced Salted Carmel White Mocha.  But I relaxed my death grip on my own semi-security and said, why not? Maybe God wanted to take care of me by having this friend bring me coffee. And who am I to argue with God if He wants to bring an exhausted mother of three a Starbucks?

Let’s not be silly.

But I told my best friend... that I kind of wished it was a best friend.  I only have a couple and my heart ached for something that felt like home, I think. I think that’s what I was crying about.  And I told her, “You would know to bring me donuts. You would know to bring me a huge Starbucks and all the donuts and we would just sit and I wouldn’t have to talk.”

And then there’s a knock on my door and a sweet friend, who didn’t have to go out of her way for me, but so did... she shows up all smiles and love and grace, holding my iced coffee.  I let her in and she says my baby is cute (he is) and then she hands me a bag, “Here,...” she says, “I didn’t know what you’d like, but here are some donuts and I got some chocolate ones....” I’m already tearing up as she open hands me a necklace with a sparrow on a chain, reminding me that I’m seen and loved and treasured by God and by others.

I hug her once.  I hug her twice.

She leaves and I melt into my day and my delicious treats and I soak up love, wear it like my favorite socks, wrapping myself in the truth of being seen and valued like a well-worn hoodie.  It was comfort and soul food and that was the best donut I’ve ever had.  Ever.  Ever ever.  And I read in a book that is in a stack in our living room, about how God so loves us, how we’re royal and blessed and all we have to do is ask in His name.  We have an inheriatance and a voice and power in us that raised Christ from the dead.  And we don’t use it.  We don’t walk around trying to wield our swords.  We don’t walk around... expecting.  

I’m padding around my house in my grace and my imaginary “Jesus Loves Me” hoodie and I’m so grateful and full (of donuts and blessing) and it all feels good.  Just like I needed it to.

And just like when you think you have the ending of the story all figured out, have the perfect way to wrap up the day and knot it tight,... but God isn’t done, yet.

Not long before the bus is set to bring my big boy home, I start tackling a cleaning project in the kitchen. I decide to start my organzation dreams by purging the sippy cups and travel mugs we never use. I could use that drawer for something, anything else. I sit down and start sorting. Toss it. Keep it. Toss it.  Never liked it anyway. 

I pull out a glass tumbler, something my sister gave me a few Christmases ago. I actually have never used it. I don’t know if I didn’t trust myself with the glass or what, but I’ve just been storing it. I set it aside to either get rid of or re-gift.  And that’s when I see the verse reflected in the glass, shimmering in my palm: “For I know the plans...”

No. Wait, what? This?

Now?

A quick backstory: about a month ago, my pastor shared how, in a dream, the reference “Jeremiah 29:11” wouldn’t stop running through his mind. He finally woke up and asked God to reveal what this meant.  It all unfolded in a way that the verse refrence, the beautiful reminder that God knows His ways for us, was specifically intended for a handful of people. I’ve honestly kind of glossed over the verse in the past. I’ve seen it’s overuse on graduation cards and new baby cards and “You’ll get through this” cards and I think it lost some allure for me. Surely there were OTHER verses that would hand more to my hungry heart.

But still... I listened on that Sunday of the stories unfolding. And I expected. I mean, didn’t God have a Jeremiah 29:11 experience for me?

I would read my boys their nightly bedtime story, expecting to see the reference there. 

Nothing.

I opened up a devotional and fully expected to see the verses glowing, the text highlited just for me.

It never was.

I anticipated a friend sharing a reminder. Someone sending me a card. A note. Anything. I joked with a fellow staff member at church, “Where’s MY Jeremiah 29:11?! I’m here! I’m ready! I love Jesus!”

Maybe I was living out my purpose. I’m married and have kids and a house. I have beautiful part-time work at the church I love and people that I’m honored to link arms with and do ministry with - wasn’t that my purpose? Why did there have to be more? The dreamer in me probably just needed a kick in the pants and a reality check and to go do another load of laundry for crying out loud.

But here I was, sitting on the (probably needing to be swept) floor of my kitchen, going through a junk drawer of plastic and insulated cups... and God was showing up?  Handing me my own Jeremiah 29:11 moment? I was almost too stunned, too frozen, too freaking loved in and out in that moment, to cry.  The tears pushed gently at my eyelashes.

My dreams?  Are they ever mine? Were they ever? Hunger in my spirit for more times to worship, more opportunities to shatter myself at His feet, more ways to be creative, loving,... words and music and dust and bones and housework and babies and vacations and school field trips and hand holding and song learning and toilet cleaning.... could He be in all of it? Could He be intending, all of it?  Could He be, still, holding... all of it?  While I struggle exhausted and coffee laden through “the little years”, what about my deep love for my Savior? What about the stories I’m dying to tell about the Jesus who loves, loves, loves?  Am I just sitting here, holding another shopping list, watching my dreams die?

Or does He have a deep well of purposes for me? 

For you?

Could I live in expectation and wonder?  Could I do all my jobs and wear all the hats and still... still have my heart catch at the possibility, the ancipated enchantment of a God who never stops telling stories in our lives?  Who never stops purposing and repurposing?  It goes on and on. His goodness.  Our path.  All glory and honor and praise. 

Holy. Holy. Holy.

And it’s found in donuts that she didn’t know you needed, but He did.

It’s unwrapped in the little moments.  It surprises us every time, but it shouldn’t.  He told us this was the way.  When you look for Him with your whole heart.... when you walk heavy to the end of your driveway and watch the sky... when you open up to be used for Him... when you shatter every tender pint of hope and terror and passion and will at His open door... you find Him.

He may not give you a blueprint.  He may just give you a chocolate covered donut.

But the thing is... that small... that tangible... it will always end up being the very thing, the very deep love language that your desperate lungs are gasping for.

And you’ll feel something crack in another world, something that opens up... and you’ll know that that banner - forever and for always waving, billowing, tugging at you to believe His plans and His vast desire for you to come fully alive - you’ll know He is stretching it out for you to see, for you to know...


And it will say, “You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. By me.” 


"When You stand, I feel the floor of Heaven tremble.
As You breathe, we live and have our being
When You speak, oh I feel it in my chest.
When You sing, all my fears are put to rest.
What a wondrous thing, I can stand to sing,
cause when I fall to my knees, 
You're the one Who pulls me up again.
What a mystery, that You notice me!
And in a crowd of ten thousand, 
You don't miss a thing..."
~  A m a n d a   C o o k   /   B e t h e l 




Sunday, March 13, 2016

Come like rain...

The past few days, I’ve felt like I’ve just ran into dead end, after dead end.  

I’m delightfully in my 27 week of pregnancy with our third, sweet, crazy, little boy... and I am so grateful.  But I have also been nauseous nearly every day since we conceived back in September. I’m not exaggerating.  

On top of persistent (and finally medicated) nausea, I’ve had a flu bug that left me severely dehydrated and with monstrous headaches for days.  I’m still a mother to two boys under the age of five and have continued all of the shopping, the tasks, the runs to and from preschool and a husband on travel for work.  It doesn’t sound like much, maybe - I know we all have our own battles.  This is just where I’m at and physically I am beyond my breaking point.

And then I caught my preschooler’s headcold.  

I’ve been coughing for days.  Horrible, racking, my lungs are going to be shredded to pieces, coughing.  I’ve been awakened anywhere from 1:30 a.m. to 3:30 a.m. with a hacking fit that would persist for hours.  Literally.  I’ve had very little true rest, but I’ve gotten a lot of Pinterest plans and online shopping accomplished. The other night I went ahead and ordered an embroidered stocking for the new baby.  I realize it’s March and this made me feel like I was really killing it.  Take that Christmas 2016.  I own you.

It’s been such a struggle - not to just “feel better” but to act better as I’ve done nothing but feel worse as the months have gone by.  I’ve come close to asking for help and then I’ll retreat.  I’ve come close to asking for prayer and then delete my request.  My problems aren’t as big as others that are out there.  I’m blessedly pregnant and we have a comfy house and plenty of snacks in the pantry.  My kids have been incredibly healthy (headcold aside) and when my husband travels we splurge on pizza and donuts and fresh flowers to get through the long days. Admittedly, life could be worse. I’ve worked on my mental outlook, made lists, striven to be more productive and have tried to rest more.  

Well, not really the resting part.  That’s a lie. I’ve mainly just been pushing myself continually forward. (The abundance of pizza is real, though.)

Another long night, a restless couple of hours spent trying to sleep in a recliner and my kids are up promptly before the sun.  I couldn’t have been more weary.  Couldn’t have been more ready for a Sunday morning at church.  Couldn’t have needed worship and my church family more.  And yet I’m on the couch with a tumbler of water and my three year old.  Because I can barely breathe, can hardly speak and I’m not real sure when I showered last, to be honest.

Desperate for “a good word”, I shamelessly handed my kid the iPad and pulled up a previously DVRd segment with Beth Moore.  I watched and listened and paused and prayed... and I watched the rain outside and felt myself begin to really breathe again.  Not in the in and out way, but in the “I’m alive and I’m grateful” sort of way.  And then she said this; my head jerking away from the view outside to the television screen as I went from watching rain splatters on my window to hearing her say the word, “umbrella”...

“... I had an umbrella in my hands that I never opened, because I wanted to get drenched with rain... I want to tell you, it was one of - the most romantic moments I have ever had with Jesus.  Cause you know what, I feel like He said, “You know what? You’re in it anyway.  Praise me with everything you’ve got. You praise me.  And with every bolt of lightening you dance with everything you’ve got. You go ahead and call upon my name. I will put my hand over you, but you give Me praise. You give Me the praise that I am due.” ~ Beth Moore

I will tell you... by the end of her sharing this moment, I had my face covered with my hands, sobbing.

Why?  Because honey, you’re in it anyway.  For me?  The cold, the less than dreamy pregnancy, the long days, the long nights, the restlessness, the inability to focus or work or feel like a success... the frustration with no energy, my lack of patience with my kids, with others.  Lightening bolt after lightening bolt, slamming down on the ground next to me.  And I can’t run away.  I’m just here, right smack dab in the middle of it.  What do I do? What am I supposed to do?

Praise anyway.  Give thanks anyway.  Worship anyway.  

I’ve been trying to do that, but not really. I’ve yanked out my gratitude journal a few times and sometimes I wrote stuff down and other times I just pulled out my pen, only to lay it back down.  It’s not that I wasn’t feeling thankfulness somewhere in my core, but I just couldn’t summon up the exact words.  The precise praise.  

I was too focused on just getting out of my bad mood or my depressed feelings.  There had to be a way out.  Something I could fix if I worked harder or cleaned more or had an afternoon by myself.  Something that would be relieved with a trip to Target or a genuinely restful nap.  Maybe if I organized some more or threw one more bag of stuff in the van to get rid of.  Maybe if I dusted or decluttered or called my Mom. 

Texting with a friend - her at church, ready to worship, me at home, wanting to be at church - and I told her I was praying for her and the service (and I was) and she said, “Maybe God wants you at home to pray.”

For such a time as this.  Beth Moore echoes it from my television screen.

I hadn’t thought of that.  I’m part of the Worship Arts team.  I’m supposed to be there.  I’m supposed to be smiley and present and ready to belt it out.  That’s all I could think of when my cold rendered my voice useless.  I can’t sing.  Great.  Awesome.  Now my Sunday is shot.  I can’t be at church and staying home feels like a failure or an excuse.  I rankled against all of it.  Cried a little because of it.  I didn’t want to be here, I wanted to be there! I felt cheated and guilty because a cold had deemed me useless.

But what if... what if He really wanted me right here.  Right now.  Today.

Not just to pray and do my part from wherever... but to realize that He can do His part with me any time.  Any weather.  No matter if I can sing or not sing.  And that not only could I still worship from right here... but that He could and would meet me.  

I had all my fingers in all the cracks in all the dams.  

And then... then it started raining.

Forget what I was trying to hold back or hold in... now it was coming down.  All sides, all angles.  No umbrella big enough.

And that’s when I stopped.  When I inched my hands back.  When I realized the futility in what I was actually trying to accomplish.  I watched the grey skies with a sense of relief.  I watched the puddles become rivers with a sense of joy.  I didn’t think about the promise of Spring or sunshine that will come or how it’ll all be brighter and better someday.  

I just watched it rain today.

Gently pulled my determined fingers from the leaking holes.

And thought how good it would feel to humbly just surrender them out.

It’s raining anyway.  I’m here anyway.  

What if I praised... anyway?


"Let us know
let us press on to know the LORD
his going out is sure as the dawn; 
he will come to us as the showers, 
as the spring rains that water the earth..."
 ~  H o s e a   6 : 3 ,   E S V 








Friday, May 1, 2015

Love like I'm not scared...

I was working at the church this morning with both boys.  They were running around and climbing on the chairs in the choir room, pretending to be planes and Angry Birds.  I don’t ask. I just let them run, climb and beg them to not scream louder than my Pandora playlist can play.  I was stocking, prepping for Sunday and praying over the service, for our ministers, for our team.

I got a text while stacking Dr. Pepper and water that wasn't the best of news.  I froze immediately in fear and despair.  My heart wailed.  God, I can’t handle more.  I just can’t.  I all but fell down on one of the floor speakers and buried my face and cried.  I thought the boys were oblivious until the squealing stopped and I heard a voice, “Mommy, why are you crying?”  

So, I lied.

“I’m not.  I’m just praying.”

Not entirely a lie. Sometimes tears are prayers all by themselves.  

I got up and pushed myself to refill both of the Keurig machines and prop up the bags of bagels.  Organized bags of chips as though it mattered.  I stood a little long at the back door, staring at the pond.  Pandora paused.  Silence.  

Good, I thought.  

I just wanted to stand in complete quiet.

“Why did the music stop?” Five year olds never stop asking questions.  I took a slow breath.  Watched the clouds float slow over the blue sky, the blue pond.

“Just wait.  The music will come back on.  It’ll always come back on.” I told him without turning.

I pressed pause on my heart.  Just wait.  Just hold on.  Just listen.  Fix your eyes and tune your ears and honey, oh sweet baby, you’ll hear it.  You’ll hear the music continue.  You’ll find a song to keep singing.  


Early this morning, while my house slept and the sun was still hidden, I read about how we are living stones.  All rolled up together for His glory and His purpose.  How we’re a treasure to Him.  

Living temples, if you will.  

We’re a cocoon for grace and mercy.  A holy of holies, right here under our hearts.  A walking, breathing, living church.  Hinged on Christ, the cornerstone.  

"The Rock won't move and His word is strong..." 
~  V e r t i c a l   C h u r c h   B a  n d   

He is unmoving.  He is unchanging.  His song, His anthem, bellows out above us, regardless of the times, the shipwrecks, the sorrows.  There’s peace and hope in that.  Apart from Him, we fall apart.  But knotted together, we’re a strand of living stones, a string of much-loved pearls, around His neck and in His hands.  We always mater to Him.  We never stop mattering to Him.

And when our throats are too sore to sing, it’s okay.  We can quiet and wait and listen...

And hear.

"The things of earth are dimming
in the light of Your glory and grace.
I'll set my sights upon Heaven;
I'm fixing my eyes on You,
on You; I'm fixing my eyes on You.
I'm fixing my eyes."
~  F o r   K i n g   &   C o u n t r y




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

He Breaks Every Chain...

On the way home from preschool, Joel tells me about the video they watched of Jesus dying on the cross.  I tilted the rearview mirror to see his face, his eyes.  He was visibly upset, moved.  He kept saying, "But they took His body away!" and his voice snagged against the words.  "How could they take His body away?"  

How could they take Him?

It's the great goodbye.  When someone you love is gone, for what feels like, forever.  How can they be gone? How can this be the end?  How do we let this all go?  The memories flood and you sob under a hot steam of water in the shower.  How did you go from there to here?  How could I have forgotten to send that card, make that phone call?  And now the what if's and the should have's are small on the scale.  The loss itself outweighs it all.

How can they be taken away?

I thought of the concept of loss, of letting go, earlier in the day.  I stood at the edge of the pond behind my church, reflecting on my own baptism, reflecting on my own fears, reflecting on my own terror of the possibility of having to let go of what feels too soon.  I watched two geese move from the brown bank into the blue water.  They sailed effortlessly across the surface.

Moving from land to water didn't bother them.  They were unfazed.  If anything, they looked more at home regally gliding than standing against the hem of the water, honking at me.  They could easily be at home in both places - land or water.  They were just fine up there on the growing grass.  But they were more them in the pond. I nodded to the ripples and to the clouds above.  Okay.

Whether it's family or friend, loss is loss.  And watching them go through the great door that is not for you, not yet, is hard.  Unbelievably hard.  But when we can get past the sudden wrenching in our own hearts, we realize that while they could be just fine here with us, at home even, they were never created to stay here.  They weren't made for this world, this kingdom.  They were made for a greater space, a greater glory.  And jealousy might itch against our palms a little, wishing we could walk through, too.  It's always worse for the ones left behind.

I watched my son's face and thought about that despair I heard in his little voice.  We've read and talked lots about Jesus in his five short years.  We've done a lot of prayers, a lot of explaining, a lot of personalizing that Christ is real, that He is relevant, that He is here, that He loves.  He saves.  He's as real to my son as is his great-grandmother who is hours away.  He's family.  He's Someone we love.

And how could they just take Him away?

I get it.

We love Him.  His disciples loved Him, too.  When He told them that He was going away, that He would prepare a place... did they want Him to stay with them?  No, they wanted to go, too.  They wanted to be wherever He was.  If they take You away, let them take us away.  The gut wrenching terror.  Oh no.  No.  Don't.  Don't go somewhere that we can't follow.  Don't leave us here... without you.

It's love that makes us want them to stay.  And it's love that makes them want to go.

I watch Joel's face as he stares solemnly out the window. The tears just beneath the surface.  He's processing. Dealing.  Questioning.  "Honey, I have to run in and get Travis.  I'll be right back and we can talk more about Jesus, okay?"  He nods with sorrow and with mixed relief.  As soon as I get back in the van and we're all stowed away and ready to head home, he turns to me.  He wants to know more.

I remind him that yes.  Yes, they did take His body away.  Yes, He died on that cross.  "Did they put him in the tomb in the movie you watched?"  He said they did.  "And what happened?"  His eyes seemed to brighten a little, a small light being switched on.

"He rose again."  I choke.

"That's right. Baby, He rose again.  They may have taken Him away but they could not keep Him there." 

I feel truth burning in my heart, a recently learned choir tune racing through my mind.

"Joel, do you know what Jesus did for us while His body was taken away?  He went down into the darkest place, into death... and He took all the keys.  All the keys that would lock us away... He took them.  So that we can be free.  So that we can live with Him forever.  He had to die on the cross and they had to take Him away... it's the only way He could come back and take us away, too." 

And in my minivan on a Tuesday afternoon I proclaim freedom to my son.  To myself.  In the midst of the scary, the unknown, the please, please prays... into it all, I speak what I know.

He took the keys.  And He had to be taken away.

There was no other way.  It had to happen.  It had to go down just like that.  So that we can have hope.  Life.  Forgiveness.  Grace.  Mercy.  Love.  

So that when we are all taken away,...

...we know exactly where away will be.



Do not let your hearts be troubled. 
You believe in God; believe also in me.
My Father’s house has many rooms; if that 
were not so, would I have told you that I am 
going there to prepare a place for you? 
And if I go and prepare a place for you, 
I will come back 
and take you to be with me that 
you also may be where I am. 
You know the way to the 
place where I am going.”
~  J o h n   1 4 : 1 - 4