Why Does it Hurt so Much?

I’m standing in church this morning during worship. Surrounded by hundreds of people worshipping God fearlessly and beautifully. And what is the thought that comes rushing into my head, right past the bethel music lyrics on my tongue?

What if someone came into the church right now and started shooting? What if that story became our story?

I begin to imagine how I would survive something like that, how I would survive, how I would live normally after experiencing something so traumatic.

I think about eternity and how there is no bad ending to a victim’s life who knows Jesus because death is not merely an ending but a beginning. The real pain is for the ones they leave behind.

The shooter may think they have taken away what matters most, but they have only brought pain to earth, not heaven.

If death only brings us to Jesus, then why does it still hurt so much?

Tonight, I’m watching parenthood, literally weeping as Christina is fighting for her life, telling her children goodbye just in case she doesn’t make it. If death is part of life why is it still so awful?

I think of my grandmother, who I lost in December, whom I barely knew. If I barely knew her, why is it still such a gaping hole?

I guess what I’m asking is why we care so much as human beings. Why did God give us the capacity to care so much, if so much was at stake. I am reminded of his love for us, which not only hurt him, but wounded, scarred and killed him. If we feel anything it is because he felt it first. If we love it’s because he first loved us.

So as I sit here on the couch tonight, thinking about this fierce love I have for my family and my friends, I’m thanking God he put this fragile, beating heart in my chest and allowed to bleed, to love, to laugh and to lose. Anything I experience is only a glimmer of the tears he has wept over me, over you. We are so much more loved than we could possibly imagine.

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Snow: a foreshadowing of great things in 2018

If you were looking for the spiritual significance in this amazing weather event, look no further, ha! Here’s my take, written as I sip my coffee and stare at the snow outside my window, might  I add!

It is snowing, in Thomasville, Georgia, on January 3rd, 2018! This amount of snow has never accumulated here in my entire life. Needless to say, it might just be the best day ever. I have no idea when is the next time I will wake up and see snow outside my window, and run outside like a little girl to see this amazing gift God has given us, a hopeful southern town.

As I looked around my house and marveled at the winter world of white, I began to think about what this means, something so unexpected happening on the third day of a brand new year..

Maybe it means this year will be full of things we have been told will never happen, so we shouldn’t get our hopes up. Maybe we are in for a year of miracles, of answered prayers, of streams in the desert and snow in the south. I’m reminded that God is sovereign and so much powerful than we could ever imagine, and what we see as a near impossible occurrence, he arranged with only a word from his mouth.

Job says it beautifully:

Does the rain have a father? Who fathers the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone, when the surface of the deep is frozen?”

Job 38:28-30

May we remember Your power in 2018, Lord. You are over it all and you delight in giving good gifts. We run into this year a kid running into the snow, expectant, exhilarated, ready to be amazed as your blessings literally fall from the sky in big fat snowflakes.

We are here, arms outstretched, hoping for the impossible, believing for miracles, knowing you are able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we could ask or think.

I may be crazy, but  I don’t think it’s a coincidence you surprised us with this three days into the new year!! I can almost here Your voice, piercing through the cold like a laugh piercing through a dark night of the soul, “oh my daughter, you have no idea what’s in store for you!!”

We are here, we are ready, we have snowflakes in our hair.

Christmas Expectations

I consider myself to be a pretty low maintenance person. I don’t pack a great deal on trips, I try not to be the person everyone is waiting on in the store, I don’t order complicated things on the menu, and I try not to send it back if it comes out wrong. I figure the less space I take up, the better. The fewer expectations I have, the better.

This philosophy doesn’t apply well to love, though.

However low maintenance I think I may be, I have nothing but high expectations and high hopes in my relationships. I hope no one will ever have an issue with me, yet I am the first to notice a problem in someone else. I try to be invisible, yet I see everything in others.

This comes up at Christmas, I have discovered.

In my mind, I have a picture of how things will turn out. The laughter will echo and the deep, thoughtful moments on the porch, late at night with a glass of red wine will abound. We’ll play games and we will all voice our needs and expectations to each other so we can properly satisfy all the things we inwardly need and want. We will all contribute equally, and we will all cry as we open our gifts from each other.

I want everyone to be happy, even if it kills me.

The irony is not lost on me.

How many times do we enter Christmas, telling our hearts to calm down, as our family enters the home. “Act natural,” we tell ourselves, as we desperately hope everyone is having a good time, bonding, and making lasting memories.

How many times do I look at a member of my family and wish I could take all the pain they are experiencing and shoulder it myself? How many times do I reach over to take someone’s hand, but the moment has already past?

And how many times does this fierce love rise up in me, and bubble over into a form of hatred and anger? “I have expectations of how things are supposed to go”, I am yelling to myself, “and I want you to be happy!” But all they see is my indignation and displeasure.

There is nothing low maintenance or easy about family, about holidays, about love.

It’s incredibly hard to lay it all out there, put yourself completely at the mercy of those you love, and desperately hope they liked the gift you worked so hard to pay for, or the dish you spent so much precious time preparing. There is nothing low maintenance about opening your home and letting your crazy family take over your normal, your routine, your sanity.

There is nothing simple or everyday about attempting to convey how miraculous the birth of Jesus is, and how his arrival has impacted us personally, individually.

Being in a family takes courage. Maybe that’s why a lot of people check out.

We have this idea of what it’s supposed to look like and what people are supposed to say, and it never goes the way we plan because we are fickle, broken people. But we are worth it. Having people is worth it. Enduring tough conversations is worth it. Being upset at how they loaded the dishwasher is worth it. Wishing they had been more grateful is worth it. Wondering if they liked it is worth it.

It’s worth it to be all in. It’s so incredibly worth it.

So to you who is wondering if you did good, if you measured up, if they’ll look back and remember this Christmas fondly, they will. You did good.

Looking Back on 2017

Dear 2017,

You have been something else. You swept in, all high on hope and dreams, and promised me many things.  Some have come, others have not. And that is okay.

You have taught us, as humanity, many things.  I want to thank you for reminding me of  the people I really and truly need. My circle has dwindled from a gaping oval to a tiny little circle, and for this life -of -the -party extrovert, it hasn’t been the  easiest  transition. I’m learning some people come into your life for a season, and others stick around for the duration, and both are okay.

You taught me I am capable of more than I thought I was. I traveled to the Philippines  by myself,  I got a job as a translator, I moved out into my own apartment, and probably more things than I can think of right now.

When pushed out of our comfort zones, we often surprise ourselves.

I learned not to judge so much. Friends come to us from all different places, and our job is to be light and love, not analyze and compartmentalize. I’ve had some major surprises this year, and whereas in the past I may have been too close minded, this year I have learned to expect the unexpected.

I learned The Office is the best television show of all time.

I learned my parents and my brother and sisters are really the best humans out there. I think I already knew this in 2016 though.

In 2018…..

I am learning to say no.

I am learning to say yes.

It’s all about timing.

I’m learning to forge ahead and not wait for someone to come along. God has a plan, my job is to keep moving forward.

I’m learning to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn.

I’m learning I am not as together, organized, or as sweet as I thought, and that’s ok. I’m a work in progress, and so are you, dear reader.

 

My prayer for us in 2018 is that our joy would be secure in Jesus, not in the shifting waters of this world. In the midst of trending topics which make our heart sink, unexpected endings and beginnings, divorces, job changes and new marriages, our hope can be secure.

Truly.

On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, All Other Ground is Sinking Sand.

 

I Think I Might Have Lied Yesterday

I Think I Might Have Lied Yesterday

I said something yesterday, something I’m  not sure I meant. I  had rushed into the hallmark store to escape the sudden onslaught of dreary winter rain. While I was mindless browsing through the jewelry, the proprietor made a dull comment about the weather. I (too) cheerfully responded, “I love the rain,  because it brings the cold! And I love the cold!” He harrumphed, and said, I can’t wait for summer. I hate the cold. Again, too cheerfully, I said, and this might have been the lie, “I love whatever season I’m in.”

Do I really? Do I love the seasons of harvest, of  bounty, where it’s good vibes and good times, do I love those days, and do I love the dead of winter, where I am having my own personal snow storm in the midst of my friend’s perfect, endless summer?

Do I love the seasons of painful, spring growth, where I am stretched beyond my limits, forced into the sun, forced to grow, forced to change?

Do I love the seasons of unanswered prayers just as I love the seasons when the rain falls plentifully and it’s frightfully easy to say, “Lord, you are good!”

Do I love feeling the endlessness of dreary gray days as I look outside my window to see my friends skating gleefully without me?

Do I really count it all joy? Do you?

This is my goal. To be unshakeable, immovable in my joy, no matter the temperature or the  heaviness of the garments I must wear. To be ready, in season and out of season, to help others, to serve others, to find joy in my heart for others receiving the blessings of the season I wish I was in.

My times are in your hands Lord. You have me in just the season you want me to be. Because your love is better than life, I will have  joy, rain or shine.

 

Our Great Privilege 

Another day. Anther atrocity. 

I turn my eyes from broadcast news, wince as I look into the eyes of those who have lost loved ones. Again. 

In a different city. By a different person. With a similar evil in their heart. 

I can’t watch it anymore. I was not made to bear this kind of grief. We were not made to bear this load. 

How do we have joy in a time where sorrow would love to be our constant companion. 

I believe I am reading a series about World War 2 at a very timely hour. 

We are not the first generation to wake up with hearts sunken in as evil appears to triumph from sea to shining sea. 

This is life. This is the world we live in, without Christ. 

We can expect nothing less from those who hate God, those who blaspheme God, those who choose self day after hellish day. 

I do not watch the news because it does not help. 

I do this. 

I smile. I choose joy day after hellish day. I fill my lungs with hope and dream of the future, Even as I marvel at those who dared to hope amidst the horror of the holocaust.

What a privilege that we are alive in this hour. To share in Christ’s suffering, to feel a tiny prick of persecution. 

I refuse to speak curses over my country, this world. 

I refuse to live in fear, to remain at home, paralyzed. 

This is the day the lord has made. His joy is my strength. There is evil, but he has overcome the world. And even as the early church awaited with great expectation the coming of Christ our savior and redeemer we await him now, and take joy in the gift of the Holy Spirit. 

These are beautifully tragic days. These are days we get to choose Jesus. Days we get to wake up and know our security is found in him and him alone. 
I keep my ideals, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. – Anne Frank
“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:1-12‬ ‭

Hope!!!

Hope!!!

Before I finish my lunch break, I have to share this little thing on my heart.

Its changing my walk with God. It’s changing how I see people, and it’s really not complicated, but if you will take hold of it it will mark you and strengthen you.

Bill Johnson says “Hope and hopelessness are both contagious. Choose the influence you would like to have.”

I want to spread hope, friends!

This world needs hope, more hope than we can even begin to imagine. People are scared and anxious and sick and unhappy and discouraged, but I’m not!

And there is only one reason… because I have been  filled with hope by the hope- giver and I can’t help but spread it like confetti.

I used to be scared of telling people about Jesus, specifically strangers, but if I remember that I LITERALLY HAVE JOY AND PURPOSE AND A REASON TO GET UP, how can I not talk to strangers all the dang time about this person who makes life abundant and joyous and ok when it’s  not ok.

Suddenly for the first time I’m not scared to go up and share what I feel the Lord has given me for them because I’m not selling a product, I am offering the one thing we all desperately need.

We have this hope and He is an anchor to our souls and we no longer are bound by what’s happening around us because we are too distracted by what’s going on in us!

It’s not complicated theology or a set of rules or a weird thing you have to say, it’s hope, and if you will wake up each morning and ask God who you can give hope to that day, I can tell you from experience, your days are going to get interesting.

We have no excuse to be discouraged or down for more than a few minutes because we have this hope…and we know God is good and he is working it all out. We should be the most amped up, excited people on planet earth because we have this hope.. this world is not our home!

 

Go spread some  hope today!