11

full moon over mountain

It is somehow appropriate that tonight is a full moon, here at the beginning of a new year, and on this day specifically; January 2nd.  Eleven years…cancer free.  At this time all those years ago, I was finishing up my final 8-hour treatment and heading home for a celebration dinner Louise had prepared. It was the last time my blood count would plummet, the last time my bones would ache, the last time I would be without the oxygen-carrying blood cells I needed to breathe.  There were still scans and blood work and constant appointments for months to come, but the chemo was complete.  I got the cancer free stamp, which every cancer patient covets.  Added time.  Extra years.  Time to re-prioritize and to learn to live fully.  Some folks don’t understand our family’s tradition of “celebrating disease and disaster.”  I don’t see it that way.  I celebrate resurrection.  Life coming from death.  The disease could have easily ended my life, but it didn’t.  It extended it, by teaching me how to practice self-care and how to embrace every moment.  Healing happened.  I am ever grateful for the gift I didn’t deserve, but joyously received. How could I not mark that day with an altar of thankfulness?

On this 11-year anniversary, I gaze at the moon. I have long had a love affair with the silver orb in the sky.  The way it reflects light fascinates me.  A rock…in the sky…glowing so brightly the night shadows disappear.  The magnificence never ceases to amaze me.  It is stunning. It causes me to want to brave the cold and step outside to see. I love to watch it rise, luminous and enormous along the horizon. Tonight, it is brilliant white.  Heaven’s spotlight.  Highlighting the silver frost resting on mountains and pastures. It continues its path with the trees reaching to take hold of it, but unable to stop its climb into the sky.  It shines in the frigid stillness bringing with it a peaceful calm.  All of it…a reflection of the sun.

I want my extended life to be like the moon.  I want it to reflect the light of God…my rock self, with all my craters and scars.  I want to glow, and to shine peaceful calm that changes the environment and chases the shadows away. It is something to aspire to, for however many years I end up with to live fully.

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Good Riddance 2017

clock at midnight

Good riddance 2017.  Is that a bold enough statement for you?  There are some years when hard stuff comes along, and then there are the years where the hard stuff piles one on top of another until you are buried.  2017 was one of those for us.  We began the New Year in the hospital with Bill’s dad, and it went downhill from there.  Job loss, health and safety issues, moving Ray, business changes, relationship changes, and, and, and.  It was the year that just kept on pummeling us over and over again. We are bloodied, but we are still standing, which I think is quite an accomplishment!

I have not shared much of our struggle on my blog this year because, honestly, it is too complicated and some of it is a bit hard to believe. If I was writing this as a story for a book I would say, “All that cannot happen to one character. It is not believable for that much upheaval to occur all at once. Do a rewrite.”  However, in real life, we don’t get rewrites.  We go forward with as much strength as we can muster.  One foot in front of the other.  One breath at a time.  I share what I can, and I hold back the rest to avoid further pain. I pull back, get quiet, and hold on. I dig my roots deep and try to have faith.

I rejoice in the good, because even in the bad years, there are good things which are visible and deserve to be celebrated. In fact, the highlights are even brighter when the rug is out from under us.  The fact that two of my kids got degrees this year, under these circumstances is amazing.  Better yet, they got jobs! 🙂  One of the kids was home just in time to help us get Bill’s dad moved. Can you say, perfect timing? We couldn’t have survived the task without him here. Another is about to finish her Master’s degree.  Woohoo!!  And in the midst of life’s upheaval, I started working for Adventures in Missions, which has been a huge blessing to me, and Bill has recently started his piano tuning business back up. On January 2nd, I will be 11 years cancer free. Added time is never a bad thing, even in the hard years!  As you can see, the year is not without its happy moments.  One thing I know from doing life for 54 years is there is always a silver lining. Even if the storms are more violent than usual, and more persistently hovering over us, there is always some positive somewhere, if I look for it.  AND there are always others who have it much worse than we do, so self-pity doesn’t actually work. 😉

I know for sure, God is not surprised by anything that happens.  He is in the midst of difficult times with his encouragement and care.  He uses everything for good and I can honestly say, as hard as things are at the moment, they are all working for our good.  Ultimately, I will look back and be amazed at all he did through this time.  I will see his hand making changes and directing our lives into the new places he has for us.  But that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy the painful parts. 🙂   I can sit in the dark places and feel alone, but I can also know that I am not ever truly alone. I can have a tantrum, but I can also cry myself out and see that I am held in the midst. I can say good riddance to one year, and hope the next will be better. So, pardon the mess as my character is developed, yet again. I am thankful for those who do not abandon me, but sit in my mess without trying to fix it all.  Holding space for others is such a gift.

I look forward with hope, and while I know current circumstances will not magically disappear on this New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight, I am grateful for the feeling of a fresh start this night brings.  New beginnings always feel fresh, even if they are only illusions.  Tomorrow is just another day, but with it comes hope and to that I cling. Happy New Year everyone and may 2018 be a year of blessing for us all!

Silent Night, Holy Night

candle light.jpg

In the wee hours of the morning, I sit in the light of the Christmas tree.  There are no presents underneath.  My manger scene is undisturbed.  The stockings are empty.  I could have slept for hours more, yet somehow my body is programed that on this morning I should be up.  The dog’s snoring is the only noise on this silent night.  Holy night.

After time here celebrating early, my children are scattered again. Last week the noise was more what I am accustomed to on Christmas morning.  Wrapping paper tearing and laughter…all four of them under the same roof for a few days.  My best present ever.  But now, it is quiet again, and I sit, wondering how many others are sitting in undisturbed places.  Silent places.  Holy places.

The manger is symmetrical with its shepherds and kings.  Always placed just so, though they were never there at the same time.  It just looks better to have them all there together even if it is not accurate.  They surround the baby with Mary and Joseph looking on in wonder. Usually with the activity of Christmas morning, we have a few sheep knocked over or a king displaced.  After all, scene sits right in the middle of things on the coffee table, positioned there intentionally for years so my young ones could touch and feel the story.  There it remains, undisturbed in the silence, in the holiness of the morning.

For many, underneath the joyous holiday noise, there is silence.  The kind of quiet that is formed in a vacuum. There is a hole at the table…if there is even a table set at all. The grief of loss stings in the holiday season.  It can be overwhelming in its stillness. On the surface, everything is symmetrical and in order.  Below the surface the undisturbed manger is a reminder of the deafening quiet of grief…of life turned upside down for one reason or another. Pain is the only gift under the tree.  Hearts broken by the messiness of life, sit with tears falling as they pray to the baby on this silent night. Holy night.

Pain like this is sacred because when silence is shared, it becomes a place of worship. Tears are liquid prayers.  There are no words needed in the quiet places of the heart.  The undisturbed places remain so because to disrupt them is to remember and to feel the pain of loss and grief. Yet, when they break forth in tears, the silence transforms into peace…a deep abiding sense of communion with the baby who was born to suffer our pain. Silent night.  Holy night.

Outside my window, it is Christmas morning.  The sky is pink and the sun is quietly slipping over the mountains to start the day. After a long silence, this holy night is now the morning of our salvation.  The dawn of hope…and with it the realization that the silence of undisturbed, lonely, grievous and painful places are themselves holy. Silent nights lead to hope-filled mornings, and for that I am ever grateful to the baby who came to break the silence with his holy tears.  Merry Christmas.

Disruption and Interruption

christmas-ornament

To me, Christmas concerts, plays, and productions are a required part of the season. It just isn’t Christmas until I have been singing along and tapping my foot to Christmas tunes. When I was a kid, my aunt Betty took us to the Robert Shaw Christmas Symphony every year.  I can still remember the Morehouse Choir singing Betelemehu.  It was my favorite song of the whole concert because of the clapping and drums. There were also some years we went to the lighting of the Great Tree at the downtown Rich’s where I listened to each choir on the bridge sing. When the soloist in the last choir sang the big note in O, Holy Night, the tree came alive with lights. Whether I was standing on the street below or watching it on television, I got chills…every time. I think those early experiences are what set the tone and helped Christmas productions become a personal tradition for me.  I have expanded my musical listening from traditional songs of the season to more modern and everything in between, but I still love them all.  I am up for pretty much any Christmas show because it is my favorite time of the year.

For years, my family was on the stage, with me in the audience cheering for them.  I watched my kids grow up from young children to teenagers in the lights of Christmas productions.  From Narnia to Bethlehem, and every single band concert in which Sleigh Bells was performed, my kids were in the midst.  I even birthed a child just in time to be Baby Jesus one year. I held my breath as he played his role, praying he wouldn’t cry and spoil the scene.  Mary was equipped with his pacifier and some toys, just in case.  I wanted my son to be a “good” Baby Jesus.

manger scene

This year I have been to several Christmas concerts already.  I started the Saturday after Thanksgiving and I still have more to go. At one of the productions I went to, the Baby Jesus was not just crying, he was wailing.  A beautiful sitting Mary (not his real mom) passed him to Joseph, who was standing, so he could try bouncing him. Joseph passed him back to Mary when bouncing didn’t work.  She tried swaddling his blanket tighter and putting the pacifier in his mouth.  He was having none of it.  As the shepherds came, Mary and Joseph turned the baby around to face them in an effort to distract him, to no avail. That lasted about 1 second. The kings arrived, presenting their gifts to a screaming baby who could not have been less interested. The choir kept singing louder trying to drown out the ear-splitting shrieks. The audience chuckled with uncomfortable laughter.  Somewhere backstage, I imagine the ‘real’ mom was cringing and pacing, probably with a shirt which was soaked from where her milk let down at the sound of his cries.

I was struck at all the efforts made to pacify Jesus, to make him appear as something he wasn’t.  I think we all want him to be a ‘good’ baby who personifies what we believe. I know when my son had the role I was praying he would be perfect, like Jesus was perfect.  We want him to have a glowing halo with a smile and never a whimper, because he is God and is all knowing.  He was God…but he had skin on.  Flesh.  Flesh that had needs, and a spirit which was perfect.  We want the picture of what a God-child would look and act like.  He’d be nothing like a real baby who wails and has needs. He’d be nothing like a colicky child who doesn’t sleep and cries for no reason.  Mary would have it easy handling a baby who was God, right?

The show went on despite the screaming Jesus.  As soon as was possible, he was whisked from the stage so as not to disrupt the production.  But it left me wondering, how often to I try to pacify Jesus?  How often does he disrupt things and I whisk him away rather than seeking to find out what he wants?  How often do I wish he would just smile and be quiet rather than making a big deal out of something?

My opinion is he was born to disrupt things.  I think he still disrupts things today, and I bounce and pace and try to get him to be quiet. His words pierce hearts and change lives.  His actions confound human logic.  I mean, he came as a baby…not in a castle or hall of justice or a temple.  He was born to the poor and the poor in spirit, and they will always see him because they have need of him.

He interrupts lives going in one direction and changes them.  He interrupts mindsets and hardheaded stiff-necked ideas, and softens them with his pointed questions. He interrupts false gods with his truth.  He pretty much interrupts and disrupts everything that isn’t based in God’s love.  He is love personified.  My prayer this Christmas is to be interruptible and to interrupt. To be aware of when he is nudging me to speak to someone and interrupt their lives with a prayer or a kind word.  Or to be interrupted as I go through the days and weeks of the year, to get out of my own life to look around me and to truly see those around me in need.  The baby is crying to wake us up, to interrupt our views of him and to make us uncomfortable. I squirm when he cries, because I desire to stay in my comfortable chair with my comfortable view of him as a helpless little baby who smiles all the time.  He is not that baby.  He is one who is hungry for those who will seek the why to the disruptions he puts in our paths.  He desires those who will not whisk him away out of sight when he is crying, but who will instead enter in and find the heart behind the tears.  I don’t want to be one who pacifies him, but lets his disruptive voice be heard in my life to take me out of my comfort zone, so that his cries are not in vain.  Emanuel…God with us.

The Heart of God

big doors

I climbed the marble stairs one at a time.  They were enormous, but beyond my notice because at the top of them were the most massive doors I had ever seen.  My heart pounded but it was difficult to distinguish if it was the climb or the awe which made it beat so rapidly.

“What is this place?” I whispered to no one in particular.

The doors stretched more than triple my height, and that fact alone was overwhelming. They were a deep chestnut-red with a rich grain that displayed the character of each board. The metalwork on the enormous hinges was exquisite.  Like a vine, it flowed across the bottom and top reaching the entire width of the doors, which was considerable. Standing at the top of the stairs, I just stared, taking in the craftsmanship.

I was drawn toward them with a sudden desire to touch the surface of the wood.  I had no idea how thick they were, but I knew feeling the wood with my fingertips would not create enough noise to disturb whoever was inside.  I just had to slide my hand along the grain. The texture was unusually smooth, like silk.  I thought it would be rough, or at least course, but instead it seemed to almost quiver beneath my touch.  The more I rubbed the surface, the more I felt a warmth radiating out of the wood.  I had only intended one touch, but I could not help more as I admired these doors.  With one hand sliding across the timber, the massive door creaked open a few inches.  I stepped back for fear of what might be inside, but only for a moment because curiosity pulled me forward again.

I lined my eye up with the crack in order to see within.  When my head rested against the door it opened wider.  I stepped into a great hallway, trying to see it all from high to low. My anxiety was replaced with a calm once I was inside.  The hall appeared to be never ending, and was at least three stories tall.  Each floor had doors on both sides. My footsteps clicked along the corridor as I approached the doors on the first level.

“Where am I?” I wondered out loud.

“In my heart,” came a voice.

I smiled because I knew that voice.

“Step into the first room.”

red door

I walked to a door, not nearly as big as the first door, but still formidable in size.  I turned the handle and pushed it open.  I was immediately in a rowboat on the ocean.  It was nighttime and I was alone. The water was inky black, as was the sky.  It was difficult to see for the blackness and shadows.  In front of me was and outline of what looked like a train.  It was hard to make it out, until I slid through the water nearer to the line of barges. They appeared to be like cattle cars, only instead of on land, they were moving across the sea. A Sea Train moving in the darkness.  My little rowboat was moving towards it. I felt drawn with the current and the boat I was in, carried me to the side of the train.  It was only when I got close, that I saw the cars were full of women and children.  One mother threw something which made a loud splash into the water near my boat; it was her baby.  I scrambled to get the baby before it sank into the sea, only to see there were hundreds of others already dead and floating in the water. Children from infants to older ones, floated like buoys.  Over the edge of my boat the ocean was filled with children sinking into the cold inky black. Some of them reached towards me desperate for me to take their hands, others stared blank dead stares.  Some were sinking and disappearing beneath the surface, and others were floating face down.  Horrified, I grasped the baby and pulled her out.  She was shivering and crying.  I had no blanket for her.

The Sea Train continued moving past me and other mothers were reaching through the bars on the windows of their cars.  Holding their children out to me.

“Please, take my child,” they urged.

“You must help me,” they cried.

“Here, please take him.”

They called out to me in quiet but urgent voices as I moved as close as possible to their train.  Babies and children were being tossed overboard for me to retrieve.  I was grabbing for the ones the mothers were holding out to me, while at the same time listening to splashes all around me. My boat was filling up with children, and more and more were raining down.  The water was filling with dead and crying babies.  The mothers were desperate. All of this was being done in secret, in relative quiet, under cover of darkness, and I knew if I was caught I would be killed.  My heart pounded hard.  I called out for someone to help me rescue the children, but I was the only one there.  I watched, weeping as children sank into the deep black waters. It was impossible.

The mothers kept moving on the Sea Train, towards their deaths.  Their hands were on the bars as they looked at me, with a boat full of their children.  As they wept, their tears glistened in the moonlight. I wept too. They trusted so completely, that they released their hands and let their babies fall into the sea, in hopes someone would rescue them. I wept that they had no other choice.  I wept that I could not save them all.  I wept as they died in the water.  I wept as I rowed my boat towards the shore in an attempt to keep some of them alive, knowing it was a fraction of those who needed to be rescued. Knowing that hundreds of others were floating alone in the darkness, never to feel their mothers’ embraces again.

Back in the hallway, I asked, “Why did you bring me here?”

“I want to share my pain with you.  I weary of carrying it alone.”

“Do all of these rooms have that much sorrow in them?”

“Yes, too much pain.  Every one of them,” he said.

“I do not think I could handle that much agony.  How do you do it?” I asked.

“I invite people into it with me. It is not up to you to handle it. I simply want to share some of it. I want someone to walk with me into it…someone to be in it with me.  It eases the grief to share it.”

“Like when a loved one dies and friends come around to sit with you?” I asked.

“Yes.  Like that.  All of these are my loved ones, and the weight of their suffering is heavy.  And you just went into ONE room.  There are hundreds of others.”

“I cannot imagine the ache of your heart,” I whispered.

“I would like to show you…give you a tour.  Would you do that for me…take a tour of my heart?  Would you write about my broken heart?  Share what you see and hear?”

“I will try, if you will give me the words,” I replied.

“I will give them to you…as always.”

I put my hand on the second door handle and pushed it open.

 

…I woke up from my dream on New Year’s morning, safe and snug in my bed, but with a new ache in my soul.  I did not know the full meaning of the dream or what God wanted me to do with it.  I have held it for two years, waiting for the release. First, the refugee crisis in Greece, and now there is a refugee crisis in Uganda where mothers are once again saying goodbye to their children.  Families are separated by war, and I am seeing from a distance the need for the story to be told, for the grief to be shared.  Stay tuned.

The Gift of Words

This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote last at Christmas last year for Two Drops of Ink: A Literary Blog.  As we prepare gifts this season let us not forget, words are powerful, can be given to everyone on your list, and…they are free! You can read the entire piece here

christmas-ornament

I am a natural encourager.  I am also a teacher.  It is not clear to me which came first.  Am I a teacher because I am an encourager, or is it the other way around? Either way, I have found great pleasure in building others up and helping them to feel valued.  I do this in several ways, but mainly I write notes.  They started off as handwritten expressions of appreciation.  Never underestimate the power of a good thank you note.  From there I started writing little memos just to brighten someone’s day.  When the internet was invented, my note writing grew to a whole new level. The speed with which my words traveled was amazing!  Notes turned into letters at the point when my typing speed surpassed my handwritten scrawl, and while I still love a handwritten note, the ability to communicate instantly has made inspiration easy to spread on a daily basis.  Nothing motivates me like motivating someone else.  It is my passion.

All this encouraging had been going on for a while before it occurred to me that I should use words to bless my own family.  I was busy reaching out to those who were downtrodden or had been through some trauma or another.  Having walked those roads myself, I knew the importance of not feeling alone.  However, there came a day when I recognized my words could bolster people even in good times.  I knew I had been given a gift of words, but I also learned that words are a gift, like a present to be opened.

At Christmas, in the bottom of the stockings, I began to give the gift of words to my children.  I mean, I had been doing this for years for other people, so why had I not ever done it for my own children?  They are simple notes, no more than a paragraph, or two, that tell them what I see in them.  They are expressions of how they have grown over the past year, and what I see forming in their lives.  Gifts and talents are affirmed, but I also tell them how proud I am of them and how much I love them. Simple.  It doesn’t take much time and even less money, yet they are some of the most anticipated gifts I give all year.  I have found them on bulletin boards in college dorm rooms, and on desktops at home.  They are stuffed in Bibles, and taped to walls and magnetized onto refrigerators.  I put a little of myself in every note, and that heartfelt sentiment brings lift to the lives it touches.

My point is that words are a powerful, meaningful gift.  As writers, we might not realize that.  For us, words come naturally and so we do not always recognize what a gift they can be to someone.  Yet, as an encourager, I can tell you that many to whom I have sent messages, treasure them.  They hold them for years.  They reread them long after I have forgotten what I even wrote. I know this because they tell me so.  I don’t know why it always surprises me, because I do the same thing.  I have a collection of letters given to me in difficult times which bolstered me.  I have a box of cards with notes written in them that made me feel loved.  It wasn’t the cards that were the gift, it was the WORDS.  It is the season for giving presents wrapped in shiny paper with bows, and while ‘words’ may not be on the top of anyone’s Christmas list, they are definitely a gift to be given that will last longer than most, and be more significant. Here are some things you might want to include in your gift…

For the rest go to Two Drops of Ink.

Windstorms

fall leaf

The wind is howling, rushing down the mountain through the trees; they are possessed with it.   I can feel them bowing and bending. I can hear the violence of crashing branches. Surround sound starts on one side of me and then swirls around to the other.  In the wee hours, when my mind is wide awake, darkness forces me to use only my ears to discern what is happening outside my windows. There is a low reverberation which crescendos to a howl.  The fierce swishing sound paints a picture in my mind of the last of the fall leaves ripped from their branches and slammed into the ground.  They rattle and crackle as they fall.  I bet they are caught up in a whirlwind making a leaf cyclone, which moves across the ground in the air. Suddenly, the noise drops away and silence whispers, but only for a moment. In my mind’s eye, the leaves drop suddenly, like rocks, to the blanket of color on the ground, but then take flight again with the next whoosh down the mountain.  The rafters creak with the power of the gusts which blow forcefully.  The house has a chill because the Siberian express is racing through the valley in a hurry to arrive to its destination before Thanksgiving.  All the leaf blowing and raking is undone, I just know it.  I can hear empty branches clanking together.  It is the sound of winter arriving blustery and cold. Sometimes season change is gentle like the quiet unfurling of leaves, and other times it comes like a freight train.  Sometimes it is both in quick succession.

Life is similar, in the changing of seasons. Gradual, barely noticeable changes take place and you look up one day in a new place.  Other times the season is thrust upon you without the slightest warning, and you grapple with how to survive.  Either kind serves the same purpose. Transformation.  From one season to another.  The same landscape, yet entirely different.

Living life is learning to recognize both types of changes are part of the deal.  I can wish for gentle changes all day long, and often do in the midst of the more difficult ones.  Yet, the kind that plunge me into a new place abruptly, require my trust in God to grow by leaps and bounds.  They force me to question my beliefs and to seek out the answers to my questions.  The more sudden changes leave me feeling exposed and vulnerable.  I grope around in the dark and it seems God is far away.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  In the windstorms of life, when the howl is so loud you cannot even hear God, he draws near.  In the moments when you feel afraid and ripped apart, he is as close as your breath.  Even when you cannot feel him, he is there holding you up, breathing life into the dead and brittle places.  Sometimes being stripped down to the bareness under all the fluff is a necessary thing. The chill and the complete undoing feel like cruelty in the midst of the change, but after the winter, comes the spring.  Always. You can trust in the reliability of that as a fact, and when your unexpected season changes come, it is important to remember it.

In the morning, the trees will be mostly bare.  The windstorm will have done its job and moved on to the next place the wind takes it. The winter will be upon us and its transformation work will go underground where we cannot witness it…yet.  Darkness and cold will be a cloak worn for a season.   An important season.  Required for roots to grow deep. My eyes are getting heavy with the sleep that rarely comes.  My mind is slowing now that the words are spilled upon the page. There is a chance I might catch a few winks before dawn. The wind is still whipping outside my window and now I hear the rush as a song.  A reminder that seasons are changing.  Ready or not, transformation is upon me.

The Silence of God

 

fall leaves.jpg

I sit in silence on my back porch, contemplating.  The leaves are worshiping all around me in a kaleidoscope of color.  I sit and wait, for what? I do not know.  I am drawn inward to listen for words which do not present themselves. I have found in order to jiggle them loose, I must wait.  Sit.  Ponder.  Feel.  It is the feeling part that is most difficult these days.  I’d rather be numbed, than feel what is currently in the atmosphere.

Momentarily lost in my thoughts, I am drawn back to my porch by the sound of the leaves rustling.  The breeze is speaking.  I listen and hear pitter patter, like rain, only not like rain. I am curious at the ‘non-rain’ rain sound.  I take it in, recognizing the tones are different than the usual storms.  There are no hissing or dripping sounds, only pitter patter.  It is not water falling…it is the leaves.  They swish on their way to the ground. With the wind, the kaleidoscope is moving and changing.  Rogue leaves hang on for dear life.  They do not know it, but they are already done, the hanging on will not last much longer.  Others are falling with style, twisting and turning, like ballerinas in a dance with the breeze.  Some are kamikaze and appear to be trying to take out as many others as possible by crashing into branches and leaves.  On this day, the sun is out and the glow of the dying leaves is spectacular.  Their constant shifting creates a new design every few minutes.  It is mesmerizing.  I cannot look away for the beauty of it.  And yet…

My heart is silent.  God is silent.  Only the leaves are speaking as they drift downward.   The grief of our world is nearly overwhelming sometimes.  Like the leaves, it is a blanket that covers everything.  Vivid reds are like the blood of the innocents, spilling out and seeping into the ground.  Fiery oranges are the flames of disunity and discord that are burning up our world in hate.  Yellows are the joy we used to know, fading away…buried in the decaying piles already fallen.   leaves on the groundMy usual giddiness at autumn’s splendor is subdued by the death spreading across the world.  A car running people over on sidewalks in New York, followed by the shooting in Texas during a worship service.  War in other countries is killing innocents by the thousands and starvation is killing the rest.  Storms have stolen stability and life from people in several regions, and fires burn homes to ashes in others, lives going up in smoke.

The wind groans, the leaves fall. The rocks and trees which usually cry out praises are heavy with the losses from our sin-saturated world.  We are a fallen creation. Even those who don’t believe in sin are seeing the results of it now, and asking ‘What is going on here?’  Eyes are being opened to truth of what our world looks like when left to our own devices.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way, and we all know it.  Deep down, our souls cry out for relief.  The crazy thing is, sin has been forgiven…all of it.  We need only to receive what was freely given and walk in grace, but we resist.  We wrestle and writhe and insist that we have things well in hand.  And the leaves continue to fall.  The silence grows.

The day when God is absent, when he is silent…that is the beginning of prayer.  Not when we have a lot to say, but when we say to God, ‘I can’t live without you.  Why are you so cruel, so silent?’ This knowledge that we must find or die…makes us break through to the place where we are in the Presence.  If we listen to what our hearts know of love and longing and are never afraid of despair, we find that victory is always on the other side of it.” Anthony Bloom

The silence at this moment is deafening…but, it is creating a longing, not for God’s gifts or his hand, or what he does for us…but for God himself.  He is a place a safety, love, and belonging.  A place of grace and acceptance.  The wind blows, the leaves fall, and in the silence…our hearts cry out.

leaves and bible.jpg

Hope Wins…Again

sunrise

Darkness overcomes me.  Black as ink, not even a hand in front of my face is visible.  I am surrounded.  I am afraid of the absence of light.  My heart pounds.  I grasp and claw, until I realize it is futile to fight the black night of the soul.  I have no control.  I have no say.  I am at its mercy. I freeze like a statue.  Waiting.  Trembling.  Surrendered to its grip.  Knowing there is no way out, of my own making.  I resist the urge to run.  It would only make things worse.  Running in the dark is more dangerous than the dark itself.  Unseen obstacles hide in the dark.  They wait to grab me, to slap me, to trip me up.  The safest way is to stand or kneel or curl up, and wait.  Make myself small. Like a baby in utero.  I can hear my own heart beating in my ears.  I am blind.  I can see no way forward, or back.  Fear runs down my face in the form of tears.  My heart feels ripped from my chest. It is a gaping wound.  I cry out to the silence.  I feel nothing and everything. I know nothing.  I can only wait.  Alone. In the darkness.

My eyes play tricks on me.  Charcoal is lighter than black.  I blink.  Again, and again.  I strain, only to see nothing.  Still nothing.  Fear turns to curiosity. Am I imagining things? Could it be?  I still feel the darkness clawing me. Pulling me.  Trying to take me out.  The struggle is gone.  I have quit the fight.  It is no use.   But I also feel something else. Foreign but familiar.  A pull.  Maybe a sliver.  I fumble to my knees.  I kneel in silence.  Still silence.  Something is different.  Gray now.  No longer black.  I am sure of it.  Dare I be sure of it?  I fear certainty.  My imagination plays tricks sometimes. I quake at the word gray.  Gray means change.  Gray means new.  Gray is as scary as black.  My heart thumps.  No longer shredded.  Just steady thumps of…  What? Anticipation? Amidst the gray, there is expectation. Something is happening.  I don’t know what.

Shifting shadows.  There are only shadows if there is light present, right? The gray is lighter now.  I dare not believe it.  I hold back.  I want to investigate, but I am still frozen in place.  My eyes are open wide.  Watching.  Seeing.  Pink.  Pale and barely there.  Could it be true? The dark night of the soul, fading?  I am full alert now. I can see what surrounds me.  A completely different landscape. Nothing has changed but everything is different.  The dawn is breaking.  The pink is deep.  The gray lightens to purple.  There is magnificent color.  Glorious blushing.  Light in all its glory suddenly peeks out.  I recognize hope when I see it on the horizon.  The darkness is broken and transformed into day. I thought hope was extinct.  My tears are grateful ones.  My heart rises in excitement to see its old friend. I breathe deeply and take it in.  I drink thirstily from the well.  I try to saturate myself.  I bathe in it. I am weary, from my time in the darkness.  I bask to absorb its strength.  Ever so slowly, I begin to move.  Still tentative in my steps.  Still cautious to trust.  But hope beckons to me.  Calls me to follow.  Infuses me. The remaining shadows bow to the light.  Like a vapor, they disappear.  I can see clearly now. My vision is restored.  Hope wins…again.

Las Vegas

vegas

Another city.  Another tragedy.  Another illusion of safety shattered by bullets falling from the sky.  We look to point fingers.  We want our illusion back.  Give us our illusion that nothing bad can happen in our country.  Give our false sense of security back.  The truth is we are not and cannot be in control of every person, weapon, mental condition or circumstance.  We can enact laws or not, we can tag certain people as dangerous or not, we can keep people locked up or not.  It doesn’t matter how we try to stop these things from happening, and maybe we should do all those things, but tragedy will still happen.  It isn’t the men themselves, it is the heart of men that has been shattered and broken beyond repair.  The heart is where the brokenness is and the only way to change things is from the inside out.

In the meantime, we grieve with families who are changed forever because a few minutes of broken heartedness spilled onto the streets.  We weep with those who weep.  We console them and try to wipe the tears that continue to fall.  We hold space for them to feel their sorrow and to fall into the arms of those who comfort them with no agenda, because when death steals someone precious from you, the weeping comes first. The disbelief of what happened is mindboggling.  The tears are important because they release the grief into a physical form.  Let’s cry, shall we?  Let’s release the pain that is built up in our midst.  Let’s fall on our faces and weep with these families.  Let’s uplift them in prayer.  Let’s hold their hands and allow them to bury their faces in our shoulders as their tears flow.  Let’s stop bickering and be there for them in their time of need.  They have experienced trauma and loss in epic proportions that the majority of us cannot comprehend.  They have been violated, and therefore so have we.  Let’s go to them and stand with them as they bury their loved ones.  There are no words that can bring them back from this horror, so let’s silently express our love as we hold them closely in our hearts.

Lord,

We ask for you to surround these families and all those involved in this horrific event.  We don’t understand the enormity of this situation.  In this moment, we don’t try to.  We simply ask for peace for the broken hearts.  We know you draw near to the broken hearted and we thank you for that promise.  We know your heart is broken too.  We feel your grief, and we share our tears with you as liquid prayers. We cry out to you.  We are at a loss for words, and so we simply say, help us.  We are lost and we say, find us.  We are wandering in this world and we say bring us home into your arms.  We cry out for rescue from this pain we are living in.  I ask you to make your love known to these families and to this city.  We look for your hands and feet, because we know you are always there in the form of caring and loving people.  Give us your grace to get through this.  Empower the people to love one another well in the time of grief.  I pray for the days and months ahead when the hole in families becomes gaping, you fill it.  You comfort them, like a blanket.  You restore their hope.  Bring them out of the pit of despair and into the place of your grace and mercy.  Show their tender hearts how to heal.  You lost a son, so you know the pain they face ahead.  Surround them with support from others.  Give them your peace that passes understanding.  Walk closely with them…carry them if necessary.  Help us to love them well, as you love them.  In Jesus name, Amen.