Friday, September 23, 2011
I get up early in the wee hours of the morning to bake the cakes for my son turning five, when it hits me - I am celebrating a birthday with my son, a blessed year of joy with him, while another mother travels to receive the remains of her son, shot in the midst of battle in Afghanistan.
It doesn't seem real - this moving on, when others are standing still, praying for that call, hoping beyond hope that somehow they are wrong, and it was someone else's boy.....
I push blue frosting across a chocolate cake shaped into a rocket, just like my little man wanted. We paint the body of the real rocket he plans to launch into blue skies on a Saturday afternoon. The mother travels to watch the ceremony of the coffin coming off of the plane. It may be the same blue sky, the same Saturday afternoon. Her son is twenty years older than mine - twenty more years of building a man.....
This boy of mine - who will he be? Will he want to serve his country too? Will I be able to let go? When it is another's child, and I respond that "this is not the end of her son's story, but the beginning" - would I believe that too when the coffin comes off the plane, draped with the flag? Could I find rest in that moment? Would I look to Him, who holds all things together?
Another cousin heads off to Afghanistan next week, and I have no words. Sometimes courage eludes us when the ground shakes hard. I pray for courage for him and for the mom of the fallen soldier. We press on, the cousin fighting his battle, the mother burying her son, and I raising this boy. And in each moment, we find strength and peace in Christ alone.
Deuteronomy 33:12 “Let the beloved of the LORD rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the LORD loves rests between his shoulders.”
May Jakob be at rest between His Shoulders, and Elias be secure behind His Shield.
At the foot of the cross,
Monday, September 19, 2011
I passed a hill the other day - a naked mound with five trees. Nearby, a forest of trees stood mocking the vacant hillside that once harbored the same forest. Years ago stripped bare of all trees but five, it stands exposed.
I thought of what the hillside was missing - about all it had lost. How time and man had decided to take away that which God had first blessed its ground with. I mourned for the hill in a way, identifying with the feeling of what could have been, should have been. Afterall, the mocking forest was proof - like a mirror held up to the hill, reminding it of what it lost.
Sometimes I feel like that hill, and I can't take my eyes off the forest.
I look around at what I am missing, focusing on what could have been, what should have been, what should be, and I miss what I have. I lose sight of what is. I compare myself to a standard that would never make sense for me, for my life. I name the hill - "The hill with all the trees missing".
Then I decide I should focus on the positive - you know, that "eucharisteo" word floating around the blogs on cyberspace. What if I looked at the positive in this? The hill does have five trees, and it is a beautiful green, grassy hillside. It would not be if the trees were still dense, blocking out the sunlight. But that isn't enough. While I may be thinking positively, I am still casting judgement - choosing to label something as good or bad. And let's face it - forcing myself to label something as "good" doesn't make it good.
Another blogger writes about finding gratitude in the hard things, and at first I read it to say be thankful in everything. "I've heard that before" I think - mind over matter, the "power of positive thinking", focus on your blessings, it has all been said....
But what if it isn't about a label?
As I understand more of what this blogger writes - about being thankful in all this, I begin to see it. It isn't about changing the name or perspective of a hill or obstacle........What if I let the label go? What if I accepted everything as a gift from God. What if the hill was just a "Hill with five trees" and I loved that hill just because it praises our Creator when the grass shimmers, and it stands bold reflecting sunlight from its bare snowy face, and all of it points to Him?
What if my life was that way? What if my house was just a shelter for our family to bend knee to Him? What if my laundry reminded me of the garment ripped from his body, that the soldiers cast lots for, or the first clothes He made for Adam and Eve after they sinned? What if the dishes were a way to pause for the singing of a hymn of praise? What if all this was for Him, to Him? What if?
His word tells us this is true in Colossians 1: "All things have been created through Him and for Him." When I turn everything back to Him for His glory, I too am changed. Oh, but how to do this in the day to day? It has to be in the moments, doesn't it? Do we have anything else to give but this...very...moment...here...now?
I think back to the hill, and I take a look at my life, and what I have of true value, or what anyone really has of true value, and I realize - my wealth is in the moments, and those moments are just as beautiful, just as precious, just as priceless as everyone elses. Moments are outside the boundaries of economies, governments, property, families, power or prestige. They are a common currency - spent equally by all - one. at. a. time.
So we can take this moment - this very moment - and give it to eternity. We can let it bind us to Him who holds all in the palm of His hand and we can say - no matter what He gives or withholds, I am yours, these moments are yours.
And in the midst of this surrender, we find true transformation - one moment at a time.
At the foot of the cross,
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Let's start at the beginning and I will tell the story the way I see it in my mind.....
She's running slightly late, thinking of all the parts of her day left undone - the laundry, the errands - even lunch, which never found time to be eaten. She drives quickly, but not so quickly as to alert any official - afterall, she is married to one of them, and what would be more embarassing than being pulled over by her own husband? The driveway to the place to donate blood is not that full - not many people wanting to give a part of themselves - their life-blood in the heat of the afternoon. She walks over to where everything is set up. A little bit of paperwork to fill out and meanwhile she is thinking about what she should cook for supper and her son fighting someone else's war....
The nurse beckons her, letting her know they are ready. She feels drained, and wishes she had found time for lunch, but there is so much left to do, to give, to accomplish, and she just. keeps. moving.
It's all been done many times before. Reclining on the medical bed - the nurse unwraps the new needle. Cold alcohol sterilizes the future wound - skin broken open to give life. The nurse ties elastic, and my friend watches her find a vein and pierce God's covering. A slight burn, and the elastic is untied, the red cell-water flowing into a container - to be poured into another someday who is empty.
She begins to feel faint, her energy flowing out with the blood. Her body feels hot and cold at the same time, skin sweaty and clammy and the world seems unsteady. Thoughts that once were clear become muddled and all she can focus on is trying to stay alert, coherent, trying not to faint. The nurse asks her to lie down and offers sugar, but she knows that an undernourished body will not be restored with anything but true food. She rejects the temporary sugar serum and asks for sustaining bread and meat.
She thinks she is strong enough and rises, only to sit down again - her body still weak. After a few minutes her mind begins to freshen, and she thinks about her body and its need for fuel. The desire of the belly for that which sustains. Had she been fed - had her flesh been full, she would have been more prepared to pour it out for others.
The spirit is the same. It must be fed. It must nourish with food that sustains, that is long-lasting. Brief uses of spiritual substitutes may invigorate for minutes, but true invigoration comes only through the bread of His word, a meal with the meat of scripture -chewing long and hard. We try to give to others without being fed, and we become weak ourselves. We must first seek the meal - seek His Word, and then seek to serve.
He equips us to give more than we would have to give on our own.
When we give of our own, we pour out ourselves and are emptied. But when we hunger for Him and are satisfied by Him alone, that which we give to others is just the overflow. It pours out of us, our souls still brimming full of His sweet mercy and grace.
Are you being fed or are you famished? ...................
"The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises
and faithful in all he does.
The LORD upholds all who fall
and lifts up all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing." Psalm 145:13-16
Fill yourself with that which will satisfy, that which will sustain......... Jesus
At the foot of the cross,
Monday, September 5, 2011
And today as I clean up from the trip, my mind wanders back to the storm. The darkness of the night as the Creation was stripped clean by water. My body was stripped clean by water too, many years ago, my shaking eight year old hands reading the story. I told about how I loved Him, and how He loved me, and how much I wanted to be washed in His grace, in His water. The pastor plunged me deep and I rose, my soul stripped bare for the world to see. The water dripped from my hair, the ends of my shirt, and I climbed out of the water to new life.
When silence came after the storm in the wee hours of Saturday morning, I unzipped the tent door and entered into the washed, water-dripping world. I thought of fresh steps in a clean creation, but first steps from a baptism of water don't always stay clean and crisp. Sometimes the revealing rain makes the dirt in our lives more obvious, sticky. Like deep, thick mud on new tennis shoes. I think about the mud in my life - the sin that sticks and stains my path.
My shoes slide underfoot as I gingerly manuever attempting not to fall. My soul does that sometimes - walks through the filthy mud - the way it should not go - to get where it wants to go, rather than where He leads. And I get dirty as I try to walk a thin line between sin and saint and slip right into the mud. My soul feels stuck, the sin like quicksand pulling me down. I hear a murmer of lies from the evil one, "You will never be good enough for God", "What makes you think you don't belong in this situation?", "It is really not so bad....". But always in my frustration, despair and failure there is One...
"He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." ~Psalm 40:2 I rejoice, and shout - He is Faithful! This journey - though filled with storms, has never been about my ability to stay out of the mud, but about the cleansing water from Jesus bought through grace-dripping blood on the cross.
I see it ahead - piercing through the trees, a bit of light streaming onto the mud. That light which dries mud firm. His light makes soul-ground firm too. It penetrates the muddy mire so that we can walk strong again. My foot steps boldly forward for the journey, in His name.
At the foot of the cross,