Thursday, January 2, 2014

A New Year's Eve Reflection

(to the tune of Auld Lang Syne)

We count the seconds on the clock
We shout, the day is done!
A new day dawns
A new year comes
We sing the rising sun.

There is a place, I know not where,
A time, I know not when,
But we will meet
And gladly greet
A world without the sun.

We sing our endless praise to you
We sing our endless praise!
We now begin to never end
The praises of our king!



Timeless, the world will never end
And in this place of light
No sorrows shroud
No pain-filled cloud
No tears shed in the night.

We’ll count the blessings of the Lamb
We’ll shout, for he has won!
Our king will reign
And with the saints
We’ll sing the risen son.

We sing our endless praise to you
We sing our endless praise!
We now begin to never end
The praises of our king!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Poem For the Perfectionist

Reflectionism

You

prepare a table

before me

my cup

runs over

and I

worry about the spill

table manners

you desire

are only

open hands

gratitude

the poison of perfectionism

has seeped into my feast

but I wean

off

the poison drink

and instead sip

grace

discovering I am only

the glass

which might reflect

your love, your face

getting it right

trumped by

reflecting your light




(Thank you to Ann Voskamp for the idea of perfectionism being a poison.)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I Remember Her Name

She is a freshman, and I am a senior. I have a car, so she asks me to drive her to Planned Parenthood. “I think I might be pregnant.” For half the year, she sits across from me, diagonally, at the huge table in art class. She’s cute—a short, spunky, blonde 14 year old who clearly likes boys and parties. She chews gum and has braces. She talks about the boyfriend, but I never meet him.

“You mean during school?” I ask.

“Yeah. I’ve already talked to the school counselor, and our absences will be excused.”

I’m shocked. I didn’t know that was possible. She doesn’t even seem scared. I agree to take her.

The next day, we meet at the school office at the agreed time. We get passes from a lady who apparently keeps attendance records. I have never seen her before. She doesn’t smile. I can’t tell if she is annoyed or concerned. She tells us that this will not be on record and our parents will not know.
We walk out of the stuffy high school halls into the California sun. It’s 1992, and life still feels safe. We get in my 1986 Nissan and drive down to the city. It’s a quiet 20 minute ride. The only reason I agreed to this, I think to myself, is to try to talk her out of an abortion if she’s pregnant. But I am tongue-tied. I don’t know what to say. The radio buzzes faintly. I am too nervous to turn it up. I ask her what she will do if she is pregnant. She mentions abortion. I ask if she knows how those work. She doesn’t. I tell her what I know about abortion procedures. Maybe knowing will keep her from this choice, I think. Silently, I pray.

We find the building. We agree that I will wait in the car while she goes inside. (I wish I had gone inside. I wish I had been with her the whole time.) She jumps out of the car and walks in. I think about what I might say if she is pregnant, if she’s not. I think about the class I’m missing and watch the clock. I have my own turmoil of life, moving to a new school for my senior year. Few friends. Family troubles. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I think about what her life at home is like—her mom is single and has a boyfriend. I don’t know much more than that. She seems popular. Why did she ask me to take her? Doesn’t she have other friends with cars? Did she not want them to know? The radio still buzzes.

She comes back to the car and bounces in. Not pregnant. She seems relieved, but not really any different than she seemed going in. Has she done this before? I don’t remember our conversation afterward, just the rush to get back to school.

As often happens in the weird culture of high school, our two lives went on. She changed classes, and I didn’t see her in art class again. Occasionally, we would see each other in the hallways. Our eyes would meet, then a smile and hi, and we’d walk on. After graduating, I never saw her again.

Twenty years later, and I think how differently I would respond to her. But I was 17 and she was 14, and maybe it happened just as is it was supposed to happen. Sometimes I still pray.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Home ~ A Song

I wrote the following song as I reflected on what "home" really means last year (March, 2012.) This idea of pilgrimage is a theme in my life, and I would guess for many Christians. Some inspiration for (and allusions in) this song are Psalm 90, Hebrews 11, and one of my mother-in-law's favorite quotes, "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain." At some point, I would like to make a recording of this and post it. In the meantime, it might be meaningful to know that the first half of the song has a slower tempo with a more contemplative tone. In the second half, the tempo increases. As many of the Biblical Psalms, the tone of the song changes in the middle of the song, I and consider God's greater purposes, character, and love. He not only is the destination of our journey, but our refuge and security along the way.



You have been our shelter, LORD,
You have been our home.
You have been our shelter, LORD,
You have been our home.
In every generation
You have always been the same:
A dwelling place secure
And free from harm.

And I wait for you… I wait for you.

We have wandered over all the earth.
Where can we find rest?
Our shelter is the LORD.
He is our home.
We are weary. We are wounded.
Where can we find rest?
Our shelter is the LORD.
He is our home.

And I wait for you… I wait for you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I will not wait to live.
I will fully embrace the life you give!
Thank you, Father, for the journey.
I’m fighting for joy in the midst of pain.
I’m learning how to dance in the middle of the rain.
Thank you, Father, for the journey.

My hope is in the Lord
My hope is in the Lord
My hope is in the Lord
Maker of heaven and earth.

I will not wait to live.
I will fully embrace the life you give!
Thank you, Father, for the journey.
You have a plan that is bigger than me.
Give me the faith and the eyes to see.
Thank you, Father, for the journey
Home.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saying Goodbye

I wrote this after one of our last visits with my father-in-law, who passed away November 25, 2012.

Visiting Pop 11/10/12

electronic beep
cold silence
of hospital hall
we sit
one on each side
of him
frail

lucid
(thank God)
honest
alone
but not alone

“Jesus is with you”
falls awkwardly out
…words…
hoping comfort sticks
“all the time”
his reply

“are you afraid?”
silence
“no… no, I’m not afraid. I know
where I’m going…”

stories
chuckles
electronic beeps
warm room

across the bed
son
intently watching
old wounds no longer sting
tears fill but do not flood,
tenderly
“what are you thankful for, Dad?”
and
“what do you want me to tell the boys?”
and
“you fought a long time. It’s ok to
stop fighting…”
He lets him go.
Son lets father go.

softly
“Are you worried, Dad?”
immediate
“What do I
have to worry about?
With Jesus’
hand in my hand
I‘ve got nothing to worry about.”
And he always wondered what it would be like
and now
he’s here.

hands clasp
a kiss good-bye
I look back
his eyes fix on son--
eyes ask for more--
but he lets him go.
Father lets son go.

cold silence
of hospital hall
rapid pace
together
choking back
tears
must fall.



Monday, January 28, 2013

The Three C’s to a Joyless Life

Do you want your joy sucked out of you like a balloon, blown up taut, then released by a little boy who gleefully watches it dart full speed from ceiling to corner to floor, limp and shriveled? Do you want your joy sucked out of you? Here are three easy steps. However, you don’t even need to do all three! Just pick one and enough of your joy will be diminished that you may not even need the other two!

Compare

Compare yourself to your neighbor, your sister, that other mom at playgroup, your “sisters in Christ” at church, the weather person on TV…. Anybody really. Compare your body, your clothes, your socio-economic status, your home, your husband, your fitness level, your car, your job, your children, your smile, your hair, your toenails…. Anything really. After all, you were made to be like them. You were made to be like that. Right?

Complain

Complain about the weather, the food, the dog, the kids, the spouse, the tech problems, the chores, the laundry, the dishes, the mess, the leak, the traffic, the old car, the new car, the old house, the new house, how long it’s taking, that it’s going too fast. Complain about ALL of it. After all, we were made for complaining. Weren’t we?

Compromise

Compromise on what your really hold dear. It’s ok. Just take a step or two away. It’s not that important, is it? Compromise on who you really are. It’s ok. Maybe who you really are isn’t what this world needs. Maybe who you really are is a bit of a mistake, and really you need to be more like … oh, here we are at step one, comparing!

As you can see, joylessness need only be around your next corner!

* * * * *

YOU were made with PURPOSE in the IMAGE OF GOD.


GIVE THANKS in ALL things, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.


REJOICE always, PRAY without ceasing, in everything GIVE THANKS.


GUARD YOUR HEART with all diligence, for out of the heart spring all the issues of life.


BUY THE TRUTH and sell it not.


HOLD FAST to these things.


ABOVE all, put on LOVE.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Purpose in the Pain

Sometimes people express amazement at the fact that I birthed 2 of my 3 children naturally, that is, with no medical intervention to manage the pain. I have had people shake their heads, smile, and look at me in wonder. Why? I guess because I chose that kind of pain when alternatives were available to me. I honestly don't think of it that way. It wasn't butterflies and pixie dust, trust me. But I would not trade the experience I had for anything. Perhaps there was some naiveté in my decision. (But, then again, I did do it a second time!) Really, I was compelled by several factors. At the top of the list was a belief that the full experience, the way it was intended to happen naturally, would be manageable because there was purpose in the pain.

On the night of Jesus' betrayal and arrest, he spent a long time talking with his disciples. You can read the conversation, which is really more of a monologue, in John chapters 14-17. As a follower of Jesus, when I read these words, I blissfully sit in the beauty and truth of it all. His choicest, kindest, most encouraging words were saved for this night. When he could have rightfully been the one in need of encouragement (he was going to be tortured the next day!) he poured out beautiful words which he knew his friends would need to fall back on in the days and years ahead. Speaking of the difficulties that were about to come upon them, of which they were sheepishly ignorant, Jesus said,

Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:20-22 NIV)

He means to encourage his disciples with this great truth: the present pain has purpose and will be turned to joy one day. Not only would Jesus' friends find themselves holed up in their homes, confused and shaken, after his violent murder, but Jesus' friends through the ages have and will find themselves in the most painful, confusing, doubt-inducing situations. Sometimes we are sad. Sometimes we are angry. Sometimes it feels intolerable to live one more day in a world so broken by death and decay. Jesus says, "Hold on. Now is your time of grief. But that is not the end of the story. I will see you again. You will experience endless and unspeakable joy."

I can't help but think that Jesus encouraged himself with this truth in the garden of Gethsemene. While asking his father if there was possibly another way, Jesus experienced anguish. This is not a different, less acute kind of anguish or sorrow than we feel. Remember, Isaiah paints Jesus as the "man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." John Eldridge, in his book Beautiful Outlaw writes:

We who worship Jesus Christ hold fast to the belief that he was God. “Very God of very God,” as the Nicene Creed states. The heroic actions and miraculous powers of Jesus’ life attest to it. So, when we read what we would call the more human moments, we feel that Jesus was sort of . . . cheating. With a nod and a wink we know that what’s really happening is that Einstein has dropped in to take the first-grade math quiz. Mozart is playing a measure in the kindergarten song flute choir. After all, we’re talking about Jesus here. The guy walked on water, raised Lazarus from the dead. He never broke a sweat, right? But then, what do you make of that terrible sweat in Gethsemane?

Deeply distressed. Overwhelmed with sorrow. Anguished.

This doesn’t sound like somebody cheating to me. He begs his Father, with tears, that this awful cup might be taken from him. Please, let there be some other way. He doesn’t want to do it. Sweat like blood pouring from his tormented brow. He pleads with his Father, and then he pleads a second time, and then a third. Does this sound like Einstein adding two and two?


How, in his humanity, could he bear it? How could he endure being alone, forsaken by his friends, betrayed, unjustly accused, lied about, mocked, humiliated, made a spectacle, physically tortured in the worst way, and the pinnacle (a suffering, bless God, we will never know because he did) his father turning from him and pouring out justice on him, the sin-bearer. How could Jesus endure it? The answer is in Hebrews 12:2. Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, for the joy set before him, endured the cross. The key to the ability to endure suffering? Faith. Holding onto to the God who has a purpose in it. There is a day of joy to come.

When my children come to me in all their drama, as their world is ending over something like a video game freezing up or a favorite snack absent from the pantry, I help them through the moment and fix what I can. But my parental perspective keeps me unflustered. The world will only end once, and it's not going to be today. (And I'm pretty sure it won't end over video games or snacks!) If I try to explain how silly their anxiety seems, it is only hurtful to them. I just love them through it and know they will grow up. Perhaps later the world will end over pimples or fender-benders. From my parental perspective, I know they will not only survive but probably mature through some hardship. So it is with our heavenly Father. He sees what we can't see. Someday we will understand.

Paul got it right: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:18 NIV) If we could consistently hold on to this hope, how differently we would live! In his book A Reason For God, Tim Keller has a chapter called "How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?" he writes:

I think we need something more than knowing God is with us in our difficulties. We also need hope that our suffering is "not in vain." The Biblical view of things is resurrection-- not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater...an infinitely more glorious world than if there had never been the need for bravery, endurance, sacrifice, or salvation.

The Easter season sets a table for us to taste again, not only fun treats like chocolate eggs and Peeps, but the noble themes of sacrifice, suffering, and glorious resurrection. Any joy or hope we encounter from savoring our Savior is merely a tiny foretaste of the deeper joy to come. With a belief that there is purpose in the pain, perhaps a settled perseverance can calm our lives.

The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.... We ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we are saved... And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:18, 21-24, 28 NIV)

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Post-Irene Prayer

Psalm 84

"Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a spring...
They go from strength to strength..."


We scurried around our home, with the nervous energy of anticipation. My home has not been so clean and organized in months. My husband was pulling down storm windows, filling the garage with all the items we usually keep on the porch, and moving vehicles away from potentially dangerous trees and falling branches. We were checking flashlights and, every so often, watching colorful Doppler maps of a storm named Irene.

After a relatively sleepless night listening to gusts of wind and heavy rain, most of the storm had passed. Irene’s fury was felt in many places, but aside from some toppled trees and a lot of debris, things returned to normal in our neighborhood fairly quickly. We never lost power. We never opened an emergency water bottle. We never heard a window crack. Thank God.

But plenty of my friends suffered. Now, 48 hours after the worst of Irene, many friends and family to the west and east of us are still without power (and may potentially be for days, they are told.) So, for my friends and family who are without power, taking cold showers (if your water is running), trying to salvage spoiling food, cleaning up flooded basements or homes, sick over the damage of fallen trees and rising rivers (some yet to crest), I say this prayer for you:

O God, draw near to my friends and family who are walking through a valley of suffering. May You yourself be their comfort, their dwelling place, as you have been in every generation. May they find their strength in You. May their hearts be set on pilgrimage, for You are our true home. As they pass through the Valley of Weeping, make it a spring. Give hope that You will bring good through this suffering. Give times of refreshment and restoration after a time of disaster. May they be free from fear about tomorrow. Give them the grace to go from strength to strength. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; Give ear, O God of Jacob! You, LORD God, are a sun and shield; O Lord, give grace and glory. No good thing will You withhold from those who walk uprightly. Though we cannot see it now, we know You are the God who redeems, and we will see Your goodness. Your word declares, "Blessed is the man who trusts in You." So we trust and watch and wait for you to provide and work. In Jesus name we come to You, Amen.