Archive for the ‘WONDER’ Category

It is the familiar, the simple that I and those of us grieving, miss the most.

A moment when we wanted to send a text. A memory that only they would share. A feeling in our soul that they are in the room …

sigh … the shared intimacy of knowing and being known goes with our loved ones.

She came to the well, at noon.

That seems an odd time of day to fetch water from the well … the hottest time of day.

Maybe she was too busy earlier in the day. Maybe she used up the water she had gathered earlier. Or maybe … maybe she was trying to avoid the eyes and whispers of the busybodies in the town.

So, he (Jesus) asks her to draw water for him,
but he is really trying to draw her to him.

He tells her what she already knows … about her life.

Those busybodies that she may have wanted to avoid, would also have known her story, her sins. But, there is a difference in how Jesus dealt with this knowledge of her, he knew of her sins, but he didn’t shun her because of them.

Instead, he pursued her, engaged with her, offering to her living water, offering life to her through his love.

The woman left the well, left her water jug … because her greatest thirst was met in knowing she was fully known and loved by Jesus.

She took his knowledge of her as she went into town, telling whoever would listen, that “He told me everything I ever did.” And many Samaritans believed in Him too.

don’t we all want to be known and loved
in spite of it all?

What the woman attained that day at the well was the intimacy of love.

Not the sexual intimacy between lovers, which can be present in the absence of love.

This intimacy of love is only found in being known, being seen, not for outward appearance, or for what we have accomplished (or failed at accomplishing).

This intimacy, this expression of gentleness, grace and love is the model Jesus gives us. Yes, we need to see and acknowledge sin, but he loved this woman knowing her sin, he offered his love to her even before she ever ‘accepted’ what he offered. As a matter-of-fact, this account never once indicates that she repented of sins (though she did not deny that what Jesus told about her).

This woman received the gift of being known by Jesus and she shared it with others. This sharing or evangelizing of her intimate experience with Jesus came out of his intimate love for her … even in the midst of her messy life.

In Jesus we find that

we were loved
we are loved
we will be loved

I think this is where grief is the biggest struggle, for though we were loved by the one we grieve, there is no longer a present or future source of that lost love. It is the finality of death, the permanence of their absence that leaves us breathless.

For me, it is little things that I hold on to. Words in a farewell text, inscription on a gifted keychain, beauty in the sky, photos that all of a sudden have life because they were taken ‘live’ … these are the thinning threads of life that I (we) hold with iron fisted grip. These are the things that remind us of the intimacy and love we shared with our loved ones.

Lent is a season that leads us to death, but prepares us for life. Life that includes a deep intimacy with the one whose death was in our place. He knew what we needed most and he loved us to the cross.

Isn’t it odd
We can only see our outsides,
but nearly everything happens on the inside’
– Charlie Mackesy


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Spring is coming … I see it in the sky.

There is light in the sky earlier in the mornings, later in the afternoons. My hubby mentions how light it is getting each and every evening. For me, it is the light in the morning sky, light emerging through the darkness giving hope to the new day.

As this season of lent continues, people around the world are considering the transfiguration of Jesus. The event where the temporal (worldly) and the spiritual meet in the person of Jesus. It is often said of this event that here we see how Jesus is made the bridge between us and God.

In the short accounts (Matthew, Mark and Luke) of this transfiguration are three very similar explanations of what occurred. Jesus took John, Peter and James up a mountain. he is transfigured and his clothing is beyond white, Moses and Elijah show up, a cloud descends and a voice (God) tells them to listen to what his Son says. That is quite a bit of theological information!

But, what grabs my attention,


is in Matthew 17:2:

There he was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun…

Like the sun … like the sun rising earlier each day as winter moves to spring. We are not there yet … spring. We are not there yet … on the other side of grief. But, we walk through this barren, dirty, dark place with the promise of hope … hope that after this inky season the sun will shine again … and we will see it, we will feel it, we will know it.

The only way to get to that season of light, though, is to walk through the valley of darkness.

In the Gospel accounts of the transfiguration, Jesus is walking up that mountain with his friends, those who would be witnesses to what was to happen. As they descended the mountain he tells them not to tell anyone of what they saw until after his death (except in Luke, where there is mention that they did not tell of it until after). He knew that death and mourning had to precede the light.

The thing is, I think his transfiguration is also a holy moment between he and his Father. A confirmation that his own purpose, his own glory would be shown only by walking on the painful, dark road to death.

In this, I believe, we can be reminded that

“in grief,
the only way out of the pain
is through the pain.”

David Kessler

I spent much time looking at paintings of the greats of this transformation of Jesus … and none of them shone bright enough, not right enough. I whispered to the empty room, there must be some image that adequately communicates this pivotal event!

And immediately an image came to mind (below). Just days before returning to the west coast, I was heading to the hospital to spend the day with brother and my eye was drawn to the East, to the rising of the sun. Then I saw it … just a fragment of a rainbow reflecting off the luminous sun. It jarred me at first and I wondered if he had passed (for signs are sometimes … signs). I even showed him when I reached the hospital (and he said he would do his best to show me a rainbow after …).

As I looked at the image today, I saw the cross shape in the sun. Known as a sun pillar, this is formed when ice crystals are slowly falling through the air. The cross and the rainbow. One a symbol of pain and suffering and the other a symbol of hope.

But, you can’t get to the hope without going through the pain of death. Just as Jesus couldn’t bring the glory of salvation, without first going through the pain of death.

 Let your light shine for all to see.
    For the glory of the Lord rises to shine on you.
Darkness as black as night covers all the nations of the earth,
    but the glory of the Lord rises and appears over you.

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“Stay tuned … another series will come when the Lenten season begins.”

That’s what I wrote at the completion of advent. But then, death …

I was pre-grieving then, even though my goal was to not. My goal was to live and let live … let my dying brother feel that those who love him saw him as fully alive, not as a corpse-in-waiting. Eventually I was able to do that, but that is a story for another day.

Today, I begin my walk through this Lenten season.

Today … a few days late.

The ashes of Wednesday I did not submit to wearing on my forehead … for the ashes of death are still so thick, so real on my heart. When we grieve we wear them on every moment of our days and nights, even into our dreams. They come with us to work, to do our errands, as we walk our wild ones, as the waters of our showers mix with our tears and cascade down our cheeks. They are always there, in our laughter and silence, day and night, even in the joys and beauty of our daily experience.

Lent is the season that mirrors the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness. In these forty days we walk through the dry, barren place that he walked. We might even withhold something from our days that would otherwise bring us joy, delight. We think on the temptations in our own lives, even considering that phrase, so common a generation ago, what would Jesus do?

Lent is what the season of advent felt like, in my soul. It was dry, rough. Though food was plentiful, nothing seemed to satisfy. Temptations were in the form of discouragement, doubt, hopelessness and that previously mentioned pre-grief. Sleep was uncomfortable, never giving the rest needed to feel refreshed. An unquenchable thirst accompanied me all day, every day.

“Then Jesus was led
by the Spirit
into the wilderness …”

Why God?

Why would you allow us to walk this no-man’s-land. Why would you send your Spirit to lead us though this barren wasteland of grief?


No answers. No big picture explanation. No Pollyanna simplified response with a cherry on top.

This desert reminds me of the lessons of a Bible teacher our kids had, on the Bohu and Tohu … wild and waste, of Creation (Genesis 1:2). That aptly describes the journey of grief … wild and waste. This is where Creation began, from which newness and life emerged … out of the dark.

There is another commonality of death, of the desert, of wild and waste …

The Spirit is present.

As Jesus was led into the desert, as we are stumbling though the wild and waste of grief, the Spirit is there, is here. He accompanied Jesus through his forty days and nights of wild and waste and he will stay close to us as we walk through our own deserts, our very barren places.


We do not understand this foreign land, this wild and waste. We do not like being in this desert, where there is so much lack, so much missing from our lives. We do not understand why the Holy Spirt would lead Jesus through the desert and we do not understand why our loved ones died, why we must grieve.

In the wild and waste of Creation, your word says that the Spirit of God hovered.

In the desert with Jesus, the Spirit of God was there too.

And so, we trust, that though we are walking through this valley of the Shadow of Death, you are here with us also.


A gracious Sabbath stood here while they stood
Who gave our rest a haven.
Now fallen, they are given
To labor and distress.
These times we know much evil, little good
To steady us in faith
And comfort when our losses press
Hard on us, and we choose,
In panic or despair or both,
To keep what we will lose.

For we are fallen like the trees, our peace
Broken, and so we must
Love where we cannot trust,
Trust where we cannot know,
And must await the wayward-coming grace
That joins living and dead,
Taking us where we would not go–
Into the boundless dark.
When what was made has been unmade
The Maker comes to His work.

Wendell Berry

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After the Waiting …

Today we box up Christmas … some of us figuratively some of us literally.

But, Christmas doesn’t have to be over. We don’t have to put it away. Christmas can live with us every day all year. The babe, who came in the manger came to save us … it was not just for one day, not just after death, but today as we’re going through whatever we’re going through.

For that precious babe in a manger, so highly anticipated, so greatly loved even today …

thirty odd years later, he walked a different road. Not a road to star shining in the sky and angels, singing, and a mother, looking at him adoringly, but a road that lead to a price to sacrifice to his real purpose for coming. For his purpose in life was to die, so that we would live.

Stay tuned… another series will come when the Lenten season begins.

“Have you been quieted by his love of late?
Have you simply sat singing to yourself:
“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so?”
Have you submerged beneath the surface
to discover the heart of God towards his bride?
We forget to marvel …”

Greg Morse

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Advent … Day 29 of 29

“Don’t pre-mourn me …”

Though the words were not spoken by someone I knew, thought they were not spoken to me …
they have been reverberating through my mind and heart for days, weeks, months. I am so glad my friend shared these words of her mum, when told her cancer was terminal.

After almost three years of fighting, struggling with and against that dreaded diagnosis (cancer), my brother was told just a couple of weeks ago that they estimate he has only eight weeks left …

and, as he spoke these words, over 5000 km away, I heard in my heart those words …

don’t pre-mourn me

And now you are thinking, this is an odd message of encouragement for Christmas Day …

And I would say,


For today, we celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus, as told in Luke 2:

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.”

As Christ-followers the birth of the Christ-Child is the only the beginning of the story which leads to the cross, to the empty tomb. It is the story of the greatest sacrifice, our redemption story.

But …

We cannot, should not, jump from advent to the cross …

for God sent his Son as a babe,
born of a young, human virgin,
in a humble stable,
with a human dad to raise him.
The first birth announcements delivered to the shepherds,
out in the remote quiet of fields,
outside of Bethlehem.
All of this under a star.

God is in the details and we must sit with those details awhile, letting the significance of each and every one pierce our hearts. We must linger here awhile, looking on the innocent babe.

Yes, he is a like the perfect, spotless lambs that were born to be sacrificed,

but He is also a baby beloved. With ten tiny fingers and toes, with air in his lungs, with lips pursed in sleep.

He, the babe, was a bundle of possibility. He was born to fulfil the prophesies, but he was also born … like you and I … with choice.

No pre-mourning today!

Come, let us adore Him, just as he was in that manger … a babe, a precious, miraculous infant … a gift of God.

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Advent … Day 28 of 29

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son,
and they will call him
Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
Matthew 1:23

Those three words …

God with us

Those words beat any other trio. They speak the meaning of three other words … I love you, but are infused with love beyond our human comprehension.

It is with those three words that hope entered the world as Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. For he was the hope of the world, the hope that we would never be alone in this world, or the next.

Emmanuel means “God with us”

In the ER
In the divorce lawyer’s office
During finals
Changing diapers
In prison
On the first date
During the ugly cry
In the drop-off line
In therapy
At the check out
In the delivery room
Doing dishes
On the bus
At the custody hearing
At the table
In the waiting room
During chemo
In recovery
At the funeral


On December 25th
And every day after

And God not only wants to bring peace to you
He wants to bring peace through you

There are people your life and work with who’s lives are broken. You have loved one’s who’s dreams have been shattered.

You have neighbors who have gone through tragedy and are trying to pick up the broken pieces.

You likely live in a country that’s fractured by division caused by fear and hatred.

The peace that God has for you
is also a peace he wants to shine through you.

Jesus said to his followers,
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

Let’s push back some darkness.
-Ian Simkins

“Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent”
Luke 24:29

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Advent … Day 27 of 29

Though today is not the last day of the advent season, it is the last post I write in this season and I am writing it the day before, yesterday.

I sit in the quiet of morning, with the bright East Coast morning sun shining behind me, pouring into the small kitchen of the home of my childhood. My mum, still sleeping. A cup of steeped tea at my right, a muffin made by my aunt, delivered by my uncle. I inhale the moment, the quiet.

Tomorrow will not be quiet.

Tomorrow our family will descend for the feast, for the laughter and awkward moments that are family gatherings. We will poke fun at each other and someone will be offended at some point. The meal will be met with great anticipation and the gravy may or may not be a success. There will be gifts, surprises, celebrations. There are rules this Christmas season … no perfumes, no standing hugs (for unsteady feet and legs), no sad talk. For one in our midst (my brother, a partner, dad, son, brother, friend) … he has been told his end date is near … his (our) season of waiting has been decreased and this will be his grandest, most special Christmas of his life.

I take so much delight in the silence of the men in the Christmas story,

Zechariah can’t speak.
Joseph doesn’t speak.

While the words and emotions of Mary and Elizabeth are unapologetically centered.

The sound of Advent is the voice of women.

Cole Arthur Riley

And I sit here in the silence, thinking about the past, about the future … and the silence speaks to my heart in ways words do not.

And I think of the woman who has held fast to my brother’s side. Who, despite her own health issues, has been a rockstar of perseverance, help, trust and care. She has loved him.

And I think of tomorrow. How the white elephant will be in the room and we will be silent about it, Its whiteness is only because it is there and we all know it. But, for tomorrow, we will celebrate … celebrate Christmas, celebrate life … celebrate living.

This one wild and precious life (Mary Oliver) will be on our minds. It is the gift of life that we all received at birth, preordained by the God of Creation.

In the silent moments, in these last days of advent I think about the women of the Christmas story, so used by God to love and nurture Jesus and the one who came before him (John the Baptist). Though they too were mostly silent in the telling of their parts in this grand story, their actions spoke more loudly than words.

And we breath in … inhale
And we breath out … exhale

Life is precious … sometimes you have to be silenced to be reminded of the beauty of this gift.

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
– Mary Oliver

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Advent …. Day 26 of 29

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not comprehend it.

John 15:1

it is always darkest before the dawn

A simple yet profound proverb … yet, most experts would say that it is not true that it is physically darkest just before the dawn.

I think it is a saying because we so desire the hope in believing that that things will get better, when we are in our darkest places.

Today is the day after the winter solstice … the day after the longest day. From this day on, the days get longer, lighter. Light is on its way. The thought of more light makes me feel … lighter.

“Quiet my mind when it is already certain that nothing could possible be different.”

Kate Bowler

When the heaviness of the dark comes, whether that dark has to do with time of year, or situations in life, sometimes one has to realize that we have no control in the situation … except our response. For darkness, it just comes, seeming to push out light. But, we do not have to embrace the darkness. Maybe we have to learn to live with it, but we can also choose to focus on the light.

Advent doesn’t deny the dark within us
Advent isn’t afraid of the dark around us
Advent doesn’t rush through the dark ahead of us
Advent sits in the dark and yearns
for the light of the only One
who went to the the Tree of Calvary
-Ann Voskamp

The light is coming. It is coming to the Northern hemisphere, it is also coming to us through the advent season, as we await the celebrations of the coming of our Messiah and as we await his return. He is the light of the world. He comes to brighten our world, to take away sin, heartache, disappointments, disease, struggle, death. For now he has paid the exorbitant price of our human sin. When he returns, he will make all things new, a new garden.

And so, we look toward the increasing light of the Son.

I am writing a new commandment to you,
which is true in Him and in you,
because the darkness is passing away
and the true Light is already shining.”

1 John 2:8

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Advent … Day 25 of 29

King David lamented,

“How long O Lord”

We lament still today. He came once and we still await his return.

And while we wait, we lament.

We lament and we rejoice, simultaneously.

Lament and rejoicing go together, for to lament is heavy, hard and heart rending. To end lament with rejoice is to infuse hope into a situation where we do not see any.

As I hear the Christmas hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I hear lament. I hear the story of longing for a redeemer. We are still longing.

As I read Isaiah 64, I also hear lament, right from the first verse:

Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down!
    How the mountains would quake in your presence!
As fire causes wood to burn
    and water to boil,
your coming would make the nations tremble.
    Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame!
When you came down long ago,
    you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations.
    And oh, how the mountains quaked!
For since the world began,
    no ear has heard
and no eye has seen a God like you,
    who works for those who wait for him!
You welcome those who gladly do good,
    who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us,
    for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners;
    how can people like us be saved?
We are all infected and impure with sin.
    When we display our righteous deeds,
    they are nothing but filthy rags.
Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall,
    and our sins sweep us away like the wind.
Yet no one calls on your name
    or pleads with you for mercy.
Therefore, you have turned away from us
    and turned us over to our sins.

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
    We are the clay, and you are the potter.
    We all are formed by your hand.

Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
    Please don’t remember our sins forever.
Look at us, we pray,
    and see that we are all your people.
10 Your holy cities are destroyed.
    Zion is a wilderness;
    yes, Jerusalem is a desolate ruin.
11 The holy and beautiful Temple
    where our ancestors praised you
has been burned down,
    and all the things of beauty are destroyed.
12 After all this, Lord, must you still refuse to help us?
    Will you continue to be silent and punish us?

O God, our help in ancient past … our hope for years to come,

You are our God, the only wise God, who does what must be done for your whole of Creation … us as well.

We come to you with expectancy of your return, of your righting all that you created, all that you love.

May we continue to seek you as we wait with groans and yearnings.


*gaude – to rejoice
*nascetur pro te, Israel – be born for you, Israel

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Advent … Day 24 of 29

As the advent season began, it began in the dark.

Jonah had been given a task by God and he didn’t like it, not one little bit.

As he attempted to flee his calling, things went from bad to worse (he had to know that would happen!!) and he was swallowed up by a whale.

From inside the whale, Jonah reflected on his situation.

It was dark and damp and dank. There was not even a hint at light … figuratively or literally.

He was stuck with nothing to do, but reflect … and pray. And pray he did!

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God
(still his God, even in the dark)

He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
    and he answered me
(he prayed about his distress and how God answered his prayers!)

From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
    and you listened to my cry.
(Jonah acknowledged God’s listening)

You hurled me into the depths,
    into the very heart of the seas,
    and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
    swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
    from your sight;
yet I will look again
    toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
    the deep surrounded me;
    seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
    the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
    brought my life up from the pit
(He recognizes God as his salvation)

“When my life was ebbing away,
    I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,

    to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.

Jonah 2

Despite the fact that God had asked Jonah to go to a place and people he didn’t want to go. And despite the fact that God allowed him to be swallowed up by a whale, Jonah prayed and called and remembered and praised God. Not only that but he said, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah knew that he could only truly live if he understood that the God who wanted him to go to Nineveh was the same God who was his salvation.

And, Jonah was spit out onto dry land … back into the light, just like how the end of advent comes with the presence of the light of the world. Even when our lives go dark, yet we can praise him.

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