Framing Tragedy

I'm sure, as with most of you, waking up to horrific news remains devastating.  As a friend said, "I know this stuff happens, but it is awful every.single.time."  As it indeed should be, and I pray our hearts never get callous to the shock and dismay.  When you have children, I think these situations add another dimension.  How, when and what do you tell your children in these situations?

The media has the information along every front and it is hard to avoid it.  Personally, our family has decided that it is best for our children to hear it from us, first.  So this morning I said to my kids, "I'm sorry that I have to tell you this.  I'm sorry that you live in a world where these things are becoming commonplace."  I then proceeded to tell them the events with tears.

I also told them about my walk this morning.  I try to go for a walk every morning and while I go I listen to Pray As You Go app.  It opened with a song that was derived from Psalm 91:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

I ended up sharing the words from today.  While these words aren't meant to be an "escape" from the reality of the tragedy, it does show that the story does not end in the midst of terror. 

My heart has remained very heavy throughout today and I know that I am far removed from the events that took place.  I appreciated being led in a prayer for this situation by the presiding Bishop Michael Curry:

I pray that some of these thoughts and ideas my bring peace to your own hearts, prayers and conversations as you move forward from today.

May you go in peace to love and serve the Lord.

In Christ,

P.S. Another post I have written on similar topics is called, In the Light of Terror.

1001 Hellos

This post was started a year ago, just finishing it up now, so that is why for those who know my son's age it won't line up perfectly.

My son is 12 years old, teetering between childhood and young adulthood. Along with this transition comes the Peter Pan heart; the pain of saying goodbye to the care-free life. The life of no worries, few responsibilities and less pain. As we discussed this, I told him how excited I was for him to enter the next stages of his life. What lies ahead for him are a myriad of hellos. There are so many hellos in my life that I would never have experienced if I had stayed put in my childhood youth. Hellos to my spouse, to my two precious children, to my beautiful friends, to my precious niece-in-law, and hopefully someday to my future daughter/son-in laws, and future grandchildren. These are the precious hellos that despite the pain of life enriches me beyond measure.

As I spoke these words to my son, I knew he couldn't comprehend what I was saying because he was looking at the past and feeling the emotions of the present.  The future didn't have the weight of influence on his heart and mind.  But for me, I knew that from where I stood, the joy of life and love that is still in store for him was worth the pain of growing older. 

I do wonder, as Jesus shared with his disciples the future He was going to prepare for them, if felt His words contained that truth they could not fathom.  Or when Paul says, the troubles of this life are nothing compared to our future glory.

I have tried to find a way to live a pain-free life and I have given up.  I have experienced deep sorrows and I know that the future may will have more.  But I am realizing that I can cry those tears and share that pain with God, because He truly does care.  On the flip side, I have experienced great joy, unspeakable joys.  So now as a parent, I have a different perspective on these words of Jesus and Paul.  They were offering what they knew to be true, experienced as truth, and knew that resting in that truth gave the ability to walk through the darkest nights: these hellos do not end, which is the beauty of the resurrection and the hope we have in Christ.

My prayer is that all the hellos of the future, despite which side of heaven they occur on, will bring give you strength to carry on.

In Christ,

Testing in the waters of life

The following thoughts have been percolating in my mind, lately.  As always they have come from a myriad of directions, but connections long to be made into one standard thought.  But perhaps that is the wrong goal.  So instead, I desire to share pieces from the grand mystery, the questions I ask of my Savior, and the thoughts that I try to test in the waters of life. 

Yarn 1
 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

Something about this verse made me stop and say, "What??? He is not served by human hands, He does not need anything, rather He is the giver, He desires to be sought by us, He is not far from us, we live in Him."  

Sure, if a quiz was laid before us and we were asked questions derived from the statements above, such as, "Does God need anything?"  We would most assuredly say, "No," and pass the test with flying colors.  But if we look at the way we live our lives, is that the starting point for the way we worship or are we (and how well we do or don't do) the starting point?

Yarn 2

I was listening to "David and Goliath: A God-Drenched Imagination" and in it the speaker said he remembered going to Sunday School and after learning about Psalm 139 he was filled him with dread about God.  "God was always watching, He knew everything," did not give comfort but instead filled him with fear.  Those thoughts brought me back to remembering my own youth and the feelings of trying to "figure out the will of God in my life."  That ambition felt like a constantly moving target that was always off-centered from where I was to where He wanted me to be.  20 years later, the phantom appendage of the will of God still at times haunts my life. 

Yarn 3
Sitting across from my dear friend, over a cup of coffee, and sharing bits and pieces of who I am, my deep questions and fears and hearing her say, "I never would have guessed that about you, you always seems so confident and sure of yourself," throws the question back in my own lap:  Hmmm, what kind of picture do you paint of yourself, is it real or is it false?  If it is false, why?  But on the same token hearing her reflect back to you, what you are doing in a way that reshapes your imagination and offers you a bit of life to take back into the work week.  Those morsels of life, along with the others, renewing your sense of purpose and providing some of that settling that we all long for in our everyday lives.

Yarn 4
Praise.  The Psalms teach us to praise the Lord, with our whole being.  Where I want to go to when I'm with the Lord is, "Here's my to-do list, my fears, my worries, my friends' fears and worries," and "Oh, and thank you for who you are."  However, my Daily Prayer begins with "Lord, open my lips that I may praise your name," every day.  But consciously living out of a life of praise, is much easier said then done.

Yarn 5
When you look in your daughter's tear-filled eyes and hear her express a fear she has of the Lord, the mirror holds up nice and shiny and reflects fully back at you.  [Currently, I'm taking a graduate class on assessment, and those opportunities can be full onslaught, productive self-assessment times. IE are you living what you are speaking?] But as I express to her how deep the Father's love is, how grand His plan is for her life and that this grandness can be experienced in the everydayness of life, right where she is at - it's not out there somewhere, never to be attained - I see His gentle fingers creeping in all over the place.  "Yes, you've been speaking to me. Yes, you've been molding and shaping me in a life giving way.  Yes, you were right here, not far from me, all this time."  And it brings life an invitation to look around and feel Him right where He is at and all the other corners He's been hiding the whole time.

Yarn 6
So I've been starting out my mornings not from my fears and frustrations (2 days, 3 days tops, just being honest), which at times can be long, but from the reorientation that it is In Him that I live, move and have my being. I'm not dragging Him into my life nor am I fraughtlessly (this is supposedly not a word, but captures the essence of what I want to say, so if it were a word it could mean without success in a never-ending way) shooting after a moving target.  Rather, I'm in Him.  He's right there waiting to be known and experienced.  I just need to open my eyes and look.  "Lord, let me see where you are in this day, because I know you are there, and for that I praise you. Give me a God-drenched imagination today" (thank you Eugene Peterson via Allen's sermon for that rich, word picture).

In Christ,

A Conversational Poem

I read this poem last night and I must admit that poetry usually doesn't work for me. Here it is though from Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal pg. 126:

   let us love
   for the loving
   is the sending
   and the mending
   and the end
   of the strife-hate
   in the heart of man
   Christ love

As I read it, it still didn't do anything for me, until I read it in a completely different manner. So this may not have been the intention of the author (probably not) it is written pulling a line from the top, bottom, top, bottom all the way though. Here it is, enjoy:

In a calling, yearning voice I hear him calling me: Beloved.  to get my attention.
Abba? Is that you my Lord, are you calling me?
Let us love. Ah, there it is again, I sigh, how to do this love thing?
Christ love. Yes, Lord you are right, that is the way to love through living and breathing his love.
For the loving, in the heart of man bring it to my core, Lord, please.
Is the sending of the strife-hate send it all away
and the mending bring the mending
and the end.  Let your love be the beginning and the end of all that I am.

Either way you read the poem (or perhaps in your own new way) I hope it blesses your heart.

In Christ,

The part of the Christmas Story You Never Hear

There is a part of the Christmas story that doesn't fit into our nicely packaged Nativity scenes.  A part of the story for which no songs are written.  A part of the story that we skip over on our Christmas morning readings.  A part we'd rather not think about...

Yet Scripture includes it, and prophets prophesied about it and it is, in fact, part of the story:

16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
    weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
    and refusing to be comforted,
    because they are no more.”
We leave it out because it stands in stark contrast to the joy of the season. It makes us uncomfortable.  There are no warm fuzzies attached to it.  There are no theological statements that make the uncomfortable questions in our minds cease.

But maybe, just maybe, we do ourselves a disservice by leaving it out.  Maybe the sweet, perfect picture we paint ends up excluding the harsh reality of the world that Jesus willingly chose to come into. And we could stop and say, "That's not fair.  Why didn't the angel warn all the mothers?  Did God only care for His own son?"  

But we know there is more to the story and that there is a point when God does not spare His own Son and does let Him fully live out the depths of the evilness of this world.  And we forget that Joseph and Mary did, in fact, need to flee.  Immediately before this passage in Matthew 2:13-15 Joseph has to flee in the middle of the night with Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Jesus did not live in a magical bubble where no sadness, fear or pain never crossed His path.  No, God came down in flesh, to live with us, Emmanuel, to share in our burdens, our trials and our pain so we could trust Him, so we could turn to Him in our deepest moments of need, so that we could know that He truly does care:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

This part of the story shows that God is fully aware of the darkness this world contains.  This part of the story, reminds us that the intersection between humanity & God's full redemption is still being worked out.  This part of the story reminds us that Jesus walked in the real world, our world and that somehow in God's mystery that even in the darkest of nights, Emmanuel, is with us.  It reminds us that there is a reason why Jesus came.  Finally it reminds us that today, in our darkest night, God is with us, and that the last chapter is yet to be written.

In the midst of the Christmas story,
Innocence is lost.
Shining eyes - this world no longer sees.

A cry pierces the silent night,
"God don't you see?"
It echoes on and on...

A sweet baby rests on His mother's chest
as in the chill of the night he is whisked
 away to safety. 
Does He too know that there will be a day
when He says,
"God, why have you forsaken me?"

A cry pierces the silent night,
"God don't you see?"
It echoes on and on...

till it reaches 

Here's a song that accompanies the sentiments of this post:

Daily Prayer

Disqus for For His Glory Alone


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