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Archive for February, 2015

Love Hurts

Are you a veteran? One who has gone before? Fought the good fight? Risked life and limb of one, for the greater good of many? Do you bear the scars of conflict? Does it rip sleep from your nights? Steal your attention during the days?

If you answered yes, you know what it is to …

love someone.

When we think of love, what we often think of are the sparkling eyed looks between a couple on their wedding day, or first looks of a mom or dad at their newborn, or those pics of people in our lives that we choose, crop, and edit so carefully before posting onto social media sites.

What we do not think of are those nights when your toddler has vomited all over himself, yourself and the cat. The fights between a couple when insults, disparaging remarks, and wedding rings get hurled between the two. Family reunions where one side of the family are in one room, and the other side is out on the porch.

Love can really stink!

Anyone who has parents, has a child, has a spouse, has a best friend knows what it is to love, and they know the pain that often is laced in the love.

Many years ago, the Everly Brothers, then Nazareth, sang:

“love hurts, love scars, love wounds and mars …
love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain …love is like a stove, burns you when it’s hot …
love hurts”

To love is to risk, and that risk can hurt.

Any parent who has been sneered at by a moody teen (or, conversely, any teen who has been sneered at by a moody parent) knows what it is to have your heart ripped out without the touch of a hand.

Any spouse who has been neglected or taken advantage of knows what it is to question the value of marriage and love.

To love is to give and receive that which is intangible, not returnable, yet of more value that gold or diamonds.

Any parent who has had the joy of an embrace, a shared laugh or shared experience with their child, knows what it is to have lived heaven on earth.

Any spouse who has been appreciated, thought of, and cared for knows that love today is worth the hurt of yesterday.

Love is a risk, but it is worth it.

 

 

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Earlier this week, I wrote about our human need, as souls encased in skin and bones, of the practice of lament. To lament is to be real with our circumstances, and our God. It is to acknowledge our frailty.

“Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
Psalm 30:5

As the Psalmist indicates clearly, mourning is not without end. That is the hope of night, that the darkness that accompanies our lamenting, does eventually give way to the dawn of morning.

Right now I can think of a number of people who are in the midst of a time of lamenting, of mourning, and they cannot even dream of rejoicing or of a bright morning.

  • the family, mourning the loss of their child, gone too soon
  • the husband, holding the hand of his preschooler in one hand, and that of his dying wife, in his other
  • the woman whose husband has abandoned both she and their daughter, as well as been challenged by health problems and inability to work

Yet, that morning is coming. We do not know when it will come, but come it will.

As the third chapter of Ecclesiastes (v.4) reminds us there is:

“a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance”

I remember a night. I remember that darkness was everywhere … every where. I remember that everything, from the smallest things, were falling, failing. I remember standing in my backyard, sun’s beams pouring through the branches of the trees in front and above me. I remember crying, praying, begging for relief, just one sunbeam of hope to fall upon me. Then, moments later, as I set myself back to my yard work, I caught my leg on a nail, ripping my pants, my flesh … blood falling from me, releasing my tears, yet again. There was no quick relief, there was no quick end to my lament.

My hope was that “joy would come in the morning” …

We need to remember that the passing of night to day is not the same as with God. The lamenting will end, but we do not know when that will be. The God who divided day from night, will bring an end to mourning.

“There never was night that had no morn.”
Dinah Mulock Craik

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“You can’t read a book by it’s cover”

“Still waters run deep”

“He’s a gentle giant”

Those quotes are reminders that what we see is not always an accurate indicator of the person within.

So many times my first impressions of a person, or upcoming event, were completely inaccurate, because my impression originated in what I could see.

The Bible reminds us t0 “fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

As this school year is coming to an end, as our eyes tend to look at the struggles in front of our faces (and those in this school year). For students it might be the perceived impossibility of exams, for parents it might be what is viewed as a tough school year with our child (in or out of school), for school staff it might be a sense that we did not do enough to assist the students in our realm of responsibility.

Are we focusing only on what we can see?

Are we seeing the difficulties of our present situation magnified by end of school year fatigue? Are we looking at this year as loss? Failure?

What we can see and imagine as the ‘fall out’ from this school year is such a small view of what has actually been accomplished, being accomplished.

At this time of the school year I am often tired, discouraged, beaten up and guilty for my failings. It is usually about now that I see out an intense focus on 2 Corinthians 4:

Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.

If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!

We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!

So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

May our eyes be focused, not on what we see and is temporary, but on what is unseen, and eternal.

 

 

 

 

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Ever cried in your pillow? How about punched something (a wall, a tree)? Ever stood in a forest and screamed at the top of your lungs? Or stared out the window, but your thoughts were so far away, you didn’t see anything? Ever sighed from a place so deep inside that you wondered if there was any air left in your body? Have you ever waved fists up in the air, while stating your sorrowful case before God?

Ever lamented?

Though the Bible has ample examples of lamenting (the Psalms, Job, and, of course, Lamentations are full of lamenting), it is not something that we often see, or do, in our churches. I am not sure that church is the place where lamenting should occur, but the absence of this practice (at church) can make people think that it is not something that we should do … period.

Often our christian circles can be so … clean, happy, perfect …

UNREAL!

We are not living on the side of eternity, we are living lives in this temporal, sin-filled worlds, with sin-filled bodies and minds. We live lives of sorrow, disappointment, worry, sickness, heartbreak and agony. To live authentically does not mean we paste a smile on our faces and sing Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).

To lament is to pound our chests, and, with fountains falling from our faces, cry out,

“God, I hurt!”

“God, I don’t know where you are in this!”

“God, did you leave me? Because I feel so alone.”

“God, why did you allow my enemies to do this to me?”

“My God, why did you …

forsake (abandon) me?”

David lamented.

Job lamented.

Jeremiah lamented.

Rachel lamented.

Jesus lamented.

To lament is to powerfully, passionately voice our sorrow, our agony. To lament is to pour out your heart. To lament is to be the most real we can be. To lament to to come to the end of our rope … resulting in the abdicating of power, of control of ability to do it alone, anymore.

When we lament, we speak, we cry, we moan in the most pure and beautiful language to God’s ears. To lament is to be on our way to acknowledging that we cannot do it (life) without Him.

God can handle our laments … our God has broad shoulders, and he wants us to lay the weight of our world on them.

 

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Working in a high school, I have come to see the various stages of realization that high school is coming to an end, with the celebrations surrounding graduation.

In the past month, I have noted the indicators that fear is setting in with many of the grade twelve students.

Common, graduation-related stressors could be:

  • I don’t know what to do, after high school.
  • Did I apply to the right school? program?
  • All of my friends are going ‘away’ next year.
  • How will I pay for my education?
  • Where will I live next year?
  • What does life look like, after graduation?
  • What if I don’t get into the school/program that I’m hoping to attend?
  • What am I going to do with my life?

With each stressor, comes a response. Sometimes the response is action, but, often for teens (and many others), the reaction is inaction … frozen in one place, immovability … kind of like when one is trying to wake them, on a school day.

These young adults are awakening to the realization that what they have known for twelve years is coming to an end. That life, as they know it, is about to change.

They are anxious, fearful.

The Bible says much about fear and anxiety … mostly in the form of

“do not …”

God is constantly offering himself as the antibiotic for fear and anxiety. He wants us to lean on Him, because when we lean on ourselves, our foundation will not build us up, but let us fall.

What an opportunity, then during the graduation season, to help lead them to the best source of strength?

A few years ago, I had a great realization, while reading Proverbs 3:5:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
do not depend on your own understanding.”

Really it was another scripture telling me do not fear, do not be anxious, but it was even more than that. For me, this verse was reminding me that I am not able to understand, to see the happenings in my life, in that vast way that God is able. It reminded me that I need to submit to the fact that “all that I know is partial and incomplete” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The things in life that can leave us fearful and feel anxious, could better be viewed not through the the magnifying glass of us, but the view from space that God has.

When it comes to graduation from high school, college or university, the major decisions that need to be made need to be viewed as small as they really are … they are not decisions for their whole lives, but for the next year. The changes that come may indeed rock their world, but, if they can be reminded to hold on to the One who knows how it will all fit together, they might be able to wait with anticipation and excitement, to see what God will do with the changes in their lives.

 

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Sunday morning we awoke to spring-like weather, food to fill our bellies, loved ones under one roof, praising one God, and we sang:

“Blessed be your name,
when the sun’s shining down on my
when the world’s all that it should be.
Blessed be your name.”

After church I saw the pictures, read the words:

ISIS Beheads 21 Coptic Christians

I froze. My eyes needed to focus, I felt I needed a mental ‘restart’ to comprehend the horror I viewing.

My reaction? God help them.

That was it. No tears. No fear. Just words we speak when there are no pat answers, no solutions, no … words.

“On the road marked with suffering,
though there’s pain in the offering”

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Twenty-one men, twenty-one people, twenty-one souls …

Sons, fathers, brothers, neighbors.

Men who had names, which meant everything to loved ones.

Killed, brutally, in a foreign land, by foes who hid behind their masks. Killed, wearing the same clothes, as if to hide their identities, their names.

“Ya Rabbi Yasou”

Their final words, the cries of their hearts, the words that they wanted their killers, the world to know as the sweetest words to them:

“My Lord Jesus”

They were telling the world that this bloody end, was just the beginning. They were telling the world that their eternity had been bought, paid for, by the One who they lived for, who they died for.

They were telling the world, in a most tangible way, that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Their deaths may just have been their most lasting testimony.

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“from the rising of the sun over us,
’til the setting of the same,
though there’s pain in the offering,
blessed by your holy name.”

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Every year, every winter I wait for that special time in February. This past weekend seemed to be that one.

It is the time in February that reminds those of us, in the Pacific Northwest, that winter will end, that spring is just around the corner.

As I worked around my property, cleaning up debris, fallen from the giant trees, with each winter wind, I was seeing the signs of spring. New growth on the roses, the hydrangeas, the other shrubs and trees. New life pushed up through the dirt, from daffodil, crocus and hyacinth bulbs. Inches of winter growth on boxwoods and cedars. Flowers on the snowdrops and violets.

With each discovery I could feel my heart lighten … the promise of winter’s end was coming true! Hope for the season of spring was becoming a reality.

At times, this past winter, I wondered if it would ever come to an end. The rain, the dark days, the dampness in the air, the various shades of green … in the forests, on cement, houses and roofs. I was ready to pull my hair out in depressed frustration! I was even considering a trip away … to the East Coast, where at least the fifteen foot snowdrifts are bright white (and their multiples snowstorms have resulted in school cancellations … but, I digress).

Pacific West Coast winters are the bane of my existence!

But, on a warm and sunny February day, covered in dirt from head to toe,

I realized that,

once again,

by His grace,

I have obtained what was promised

… what always comes after a time of patience and enduring …

God’s promise.

It is as true for any trial,

for any sadness that rains down on us,

for any dark season that we might have to pass through,

as it is for the change of seasons.

God’s promise of change will be obtained.

The light will come, after a season of the dominance of the dark.

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