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Posts Tagged ‘Ann Voskamp’

539-the-morning-tear“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

As I read the above words I thought of how ‘hounded’ I was feeling that particular day.

Hounded was I by the pressures of relationships, and bills, and work, and making dinner, and seeking the location of just one ibuprofen to take the edge off this pounding headache.

Her words made my eyes fill, and their banks refused to hold the flood back … the dams burst, the water fell.

Later I sought the The Hound of Heaven … the poem I had a vague knowledge of once reading. It was written in the late 1800’s by English writer Francis Thompson. Mr. Thompson had studied to become a priest, then a physician, then lived in terrible poverty (as a writer) where he survived by selling matches. He then suffered with the constant pain of neuralgia, which he treated with laudanum (containing opium), eventually becoming addicted. He last years were spent in a monastery, where he was cared for by friends.

The first link I opened to read the poem, The Hound of Heaven, made the dams burst in another way … tears of joy.

I read the ode, allowing the pursuits to settle on my heart and mind. The pursuits that we make for ‘more’ of this world, and the never-ending pursuit of God for his child.

When I came to the end of the verses, there followed yet more verses … this time written by David …

O LORD, you have searched me
and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.

 Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

 Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, [a] you are there.

 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”

 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

… the words of Psalm 139 … the words I have been hiding in my heart for months, as though ‘I’ had anything to do with it … as though those words were chosen for me, for such a time as this. As though those words were the instrument of the Hound himself. He who is willing to use whatever means possible to draw us back to Him.

“Whatever is chasing you — no matter what it looks like — it’s grace.

And grace isn’t what makes us feel good: grace is all that makes us more like Jesus …

And nothing can overwhelm me — like grace can overtake me.

No matter when you look over your shoulder, that’s what you find: God’s blessings overtaking you. No matter what a day, a life, looks like, this is what it all stacks up to for every person on the planet: We are all chased by grace.

No matter what is hounding, the hound of heaven is closer — His warm breath of blessing right there on the nape of my neck.”

– Ann Voskamp

 

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“Hello, my name is Carole, and I like to avoid the dark of night … of life.”

So, I had a guest post all prepared and scheduled for today … and then Wednesday happened.

If you have read my Sunday guest posts for awhile, you will know that I quite like the writing of Ann Voskamp, over at A Holy Experience, and this past Wednesday was pure delight.

Ann introduces us to a delightful, plain, unassuming man … one who does not stand out like a spotlight … but one who most certainly resembles a nightlight. One who does not let the dark stop him … but one who keeps running through the dark of night.

This guy does not avoid the dark of night … he runs right through it!

Here is his story (How to get Through the Dark Places), told through the soul-whisperer herself, Ann Voskamp :

“The old cahoot ran in his boots.

Weren’t too many of anybody who believed he could.

The kids and I read about the old guy one night after supper and the dishwasher’s moaning away, crumbs still across the counter.

How the old guy ran for 544 miles. His name was Cliff Young and he wasn’t so much. He was 61 years old. He was a farmer. Levi grins big.

Mr. Young showed up for the race in his Osh Kosh overalls and with his work boots on, with galoshes over top. In case it rained.

He had no Nike sponsorship.

He had no wife – hadn’t had one ever.

Lived with his mother. Never drank. Never ran in any kind of race before. Never ran a 5 mile race, or a half-marathon, not even a marathon.

But here he was standing in his work boots at the starting line of an ultra-marathon, the most grueling marathon in the world, a 544 mile marathon.

Try wrapping your head around pounding the concrete with one foot after another for 544 endless, stretching miles. They don’t measure races like that in yards – -but in zip codes.

First thing Cliff did was take out his teeth.

Said his false teeth rattled when he ran.

Said he grew up on a farm with sheep and no four wheelers, no horses, so the only way to round up sheep was on the run. Sometimes the best training for the really big things is just the everyday things.

That’s what Cliff said: “Whenever the storms would roll in, I’d have to go run and round up the sheep.” 2,000 head of sheep. 2,000 acres of land.

“Sometimes I’d have to run those sheep for two or three days. I can run this race; it’s only two more days. Five days. I’ve run sheep for three.”

“Got any backers?” Reporters shoved their microphones around old Cliff like a spike belt.

“No….” Cliff slipped his hands into his overall pockets.

“Then you can’t run.”

Cliff looked down at his boots. Does man need backers or does a man need to believe? What you believe is the biggest backer you’ll ever have.

The other runners, all under a buffed 30 years of age, they take off like pumped shots from that starting line. And scruffy old Cliff staggers forward. He doesn’t run. Shuffles, more like it. Straight back. Arms dangling. Feet awkwardly shuffling along.

Cliff eats dust.

For 18 hours, the racers blow down the road, far down the road, and old Cliff shuffles on behind.

Come the pitch black of night, the runners in their $400 ergonomic Nikes and Adidas, lay down by the roadside, because that’s the plan to win an ultra-marathon, to run 544 straight miles: 18 hours of running, 6 hours of sleeping, rinse and repeat for 5 days, 6 days, 7 days.

The dark falls in. Runners sleep. Cameras get turned off. Reporters go to bed.

And through the black night, one 61-year-old man far behind keeps shuffling on.

And all I can think is:

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.

The light shineth in the darkness, but the darkness comprehendeth it not.

καταλαμβάνω Katalambanō – Comprehend. Understand. Master.

Cliff Young runs on through the night and there is a Light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness does not master it.

The darkness doesn’t understand the light, doesn’t comprehend the light, doesn’t get the light, doesn’t overcome the light, doesn’t master the light.

Darkness doesn’t have anything on light, on hope, on faith.

The darkness that sucks at the prodigal kid doesn’t have anything on the light of his mother’s prayers.

The black of pornography that threatens at the edges doesn’t master the blazing light of Jesus at the center.

The pit of depression that plunges deep doesn’t go deeper than the love of your Jesus and there is no place His light won’t go to find you, to save you, to hold you.

That low lying storm cloud that hangs over you can’t master the light of Christ that raises you.

Darkness can’t drive out darkness. Only light can do that,” Martin Luther King had said it, had lived it.

Only words of Light can drive out worlds of dark.
Only deeds of Light can drive out depths of dark.
Only lives of Light can drive out lies of dark.

Darkness can never travel as fast as Light. No matter how bad things get, no matter how black the dark seeps in, no matter the depths of the night — the dark can never travel as fast as Light. The Light is always there first, waiting to shatter the dark.

You can always hold His Word like a ball of light right there your hand, right up there next to your warming heart.

You can always count on it: Jesus is bendable Light, warmth around every unexpected corner.

Cliff Young runs on through the dark — because he didn’t know you were supposed to stop.

The accepted way professional runners approached the race was to run 18 hours, sleep 6, for7 days straight. But Cliff Young didn’t know that. He didn’t know the accepted way. He only knew what he did regularly back home, the way he had always done it: You run through the dark.

Turns out when Cliff Young said he gathered sheep around his farm for three days, he meant he’d run across 2,000 acres of farmland for three days straight without stopping or sleeping, without the dark ever stopping him. You gathered sheep by running through the dark.

So along the endless stretches of highway, a tiny shadow of an old man shuffled along, one foot after another, right through the heat, right through the night. Cliff gained ground.

Cliff gained ground because he didn’t lose ground to the dark. Cliff gained ground because he ran through the dark.

And somewhere at the outset of the night, Cliff Young in his overalls, he shuffled passed the toned runners half his age. And by the morning light, teethless Cliff Young who wasn’t young at all, he was a tiny shadow — far, far ahead of the professional athletes.

For five days, fifteen hours, and four minutes straight, Cliff Young ran, never once stopping for the dark – never stopping until the old sheep farmer crossed the finish line – First. He crossed the finish line first. Beating a world record. By two. whole. days.

The second place runner crossed the finish line 9 hours after old Cliff.

And when they handed old Cliff Young his $10,000 prize , he said he hadn’t known there was a prize. Said he’d run for the wonder of it. Said that all the other runners had worked hard too. So Cliff Young waited at the finish line and handed each of the runners an equal share of the 10K.

And then the old cahoot in boots walked a way without a penny for the race but with all the hearts of whole world.

While others run fast, you can just shuffle with perseverance.
While others impress, you can simply press on.
While others stop for the dark, you can run through the dark.

The race is won by those who keep running through the dark.

Could be the year to pull a Cliff Young. 

When those reporters asked Old Cliff that afterward, what had kept him running through the nights, Cliff had said, “I imagined I was outrunning a storm to gather up my sheep.”

And I sit there in the thickening dark.

With the One who mastered the dark and overcame the storm to gather His sheep and now there is a Light Who shines in the darkness and the darkness can never overcome it.

And you can see them out the front window, far away to the west, out on there the highway —

the lights all going on through the dark.”

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Forward

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Today I am simply providing a link for you to click, then read the words of a guest writer.

It is still the New Year, and we are still thinking back at all was done … and not done, in 2013.

So today, please click on the link to http://www.aholyexperience.com/2013/12/how-to-move-forward-into-the-new-year-when-you-feel-like-you-failed-the-last-year/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+HolyExperience+%28Holy+Experience%29, where blogger, writer, speaker, mother, wife Ann Voskamp shares a good word to focus on this new year.

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Ugh! As I write this I feel as though my body is the shape of a weeble (remember “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down?”). I had one too many servings of Tim’s chips (what was I thinking when I bought them?), before eating a sizable amount of dinner! I could have auditioned for that children TV character of Rolie Polie Olie!

I wasn’t hungry … yet I was empty

They didn’t fill … yet they over-filled

(this seems appropriate to be posted the day after Halloween!)

emotional-eatingAlthough I might look like a poster child for emotional eating, I rarely eat emotionally … I just love food, and my ‘satiated’ button has simply never worked right!

This particular day, I felt empty and looked for sustenance from all the wrong places. The result was a bloated mid section, nasty heartburn, and guilt because … I knew better than to eat physically, hoping to fill myself emotionally.

I headed to the shower, to allow the hot water to warm my cold inner core. I started warm, and I gradually decreased the flow of cold. No matter how hot the water, no matter how warm my skin, the shivers continued internally.

The food that would not fill

The heat that would not warm

It was not until I sat to read what the blogging world sent me that day, that I started to warm, and fill by the simple reminder of what I want … what we need most.

“The whole of our life is this one unspoken prayer to God: “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
Bless me. I will wrestle You – until You bless me.
I won’t rest until I find grace, until I believe that even I am beloved.
Because the truth is:
No one can bless themselves.
We live like we can bless ourselves – but our souls know we can only rest when we know we are blessed by God …
… Everybody is just a brave beggar looking for a blessing …
There isn’t anybody who isn’t starved for a word of blessing.”
(www.aholyexperience.com) Ann Voskamp

“There isn’t anybody who isn’t starved for a word of blessing”

The need to be blessed did not die with the story of Jacob and Easu … that is an innate need placed into us from the time of the creation of man and woman. We need to be blessed, we need to be affirmed, accepted, and loved.

The need for blessing reminds me of my most favorite blessing in the Bible. I recited it to each of our three kids when they were babies, and we used it when we had them dedicated. It is, perhaps, something that we all should remember, and recite when we feel empty, for it is the reminder that the Creator of all loves us and has lay his hand of blessing on us.

‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

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This is it,

the last hurrah

the windup

the last supper

the culmination

the end of summer, as we have known it.

And, for many, Tuesday marks the beginning of another school year (of course there are those who have already been at it for weeks).

I never feel fully ready to leave home for school (as an Educational Assistant) until I can leave the house in order (and crock pot plugged in), with a plan for survival of the upcoming school year.

Today, in the guest post by Ann Voskamp (through (in)courage.me), I get to share a plan that might just help me, and us, not just survive the school year, but thrive!

If we can remember even one of these truths I think we might just be conquerors of the chaotic!

But, as for me, I’m printing this out and posting on my fridge, maybe even my bathroom mirror, and in my bag that goes to work with me.

Enjoy Ann’s suggestions for 10 Ways To Be A Happier Mom:

“1. Life is not an emergency. 

Life’s a gift.
Just. Slow. Down.

 

2. Now is not a forever grace but amazing grace. 

Do whatever it takes to wake to wonder right here.

 

3. Sometimes the slowest way is the fastest way to joy. 

Make time today, even a moment, to read Scripture and memorize it.

Without the lens of His Word, the world warps.

{Slowest=fastest to joy}

 

4. Laughter is the cheapest, holiest medicine. 

Preschoolers laugh 300 times a day. Aim for double that. Tickle someone, (yourself!), if necessary. This is good!

 

5. Motherhood is a hallowed place because children aren’t commonplace. 

Co-laboring over the sculpting of souls is a sacred vocation, a humbling privilege.

Never forget.

 

6. Homemaking is about making a home, not about making perfection

A perfect home is an authentic, creative, animated space where Peace and Christ and Beauty are embraced.

{Perfect does not equate to immaculate.}

 

7. A pail with a pinhole loses as much as the pail pushed right over. 

A minute dawdled here, a minute scrolling here — they can add up to your life.  Write down your intentions for the day and prayerfully live the intentions and spend your life well by paying attention to the moments — which pays thanks to God.

A whole life can be lost in minutes wasted, small moments missed.

 

8. Believe it: I have all I need for today.  

The needs of our day are great but our God is greater and we call Him Providence because we believe: He is the One who always provides.

{And when God provides, He should be praised, and if God always provides, shouldn’t praise always be on the lips?}

 

9. Slow. Children at play. 

The hurry hurts the kids.

Time’s this priceless currency and only the slow spend it wise enough to be rich.

If we had to actually buy our time, would we spend it more wisely — spend it more slowly?

{God’s Word never says Hurry Up. God words only whisper: Wake Up.}

 

10. Love is patient. 

Parenting’s this gentle way of bending over in humility to help the scraped child up because we intimately know it takes a lifetime to learn how to walk with Him.

Patience. Love always begins with patience and patience is a willingness to suffer.

 

Bonus: 

The art of really celebrating life isn’t about getting it right — but about receiving Grace

The sinners and the sick, the broken, the discouraged, the wounded and burdened — we are the ones who get to celebrate grace!

Regardless of the mess of your life, if Christ is Lord of your life, than we are the celebrants out dancing in a wild rain of grace — because when it’s all done and finished, all is well and Christ already said it was finished.”

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I have shared from the wisdom and experiences and pondering of Ann Voskamp frequently. Her blog, A Holy Experience, is exactly that for me.

Although I do not live on a farm, do not have six children, do no homeschool, and do not have a New York Times bestseller, I do read what she writes with an ability to relate on a kindred spirit level (hum, maybe this is why she has a New York Times bestseller).

Today, I am going to share, once again, words and wisdom from Ann, that so touched my heart and soul as I read them (and a video of a song, the words of which are a fitting response to her words).

You can also check out this same post, but on her site at A Holy Experience.

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“When I get to her door, it’s after 6:30 and dawn’s breaking rays down rows of the cornfields and I’m already late.

Mama’s got a note on her front door that reads in a black scrawl, “Welcome! Come on round. We’re out on the back deck!

Every other Saturday we meet when dawn breaks the day open. We bring Bibles.

We are four, one Linda, who is my mama and her name means beautiful and she really is.

And one Annette, one Anne, one Ann, three with one name meaning grace and the Trinity really is and I am the deep dirty Ann who has to bathe her stains long in His Grace.

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Mama’s got plates of sliced oranges laid out, strawberries, raisin bread toasted.

Her tea pot there in its cozy. Their Bibles are all laid open. The air is cool this early, the sky quiet clear. A cardinal heralds the sun from the tip of the spruce tree at the fence. I nod embarrassed, always the last, and mama pours my tea and the steam wraps itself up and around the cool, warming fresh morning.

John 21,” Annette winks her welcome, points to her page and I find the passage.

Ah, yes, this passage — the Scriptures about Jesus at dawn and the disciples at sea with their nets and He’s already got the fire kindled and He beckons, “Come and have breakfast.” I smile. Mama’s got breakfast out at dawn! Our own feast! Mama clasps her hands, laughs.

We read the passage four times. Once lingering. Once listening. Once lifting voice to pray the words. Last time: to live it.

Annette says she wants the passionate abandon for Jesus that jumps out of the boat like Peter, plunges straight into water as soon as he sees Him, and did he do it because he thought he might walk on water again?

Mama keeps returning to the three times Jesus asks “Do you truly love me?” and she says that all week she’s been working through feelings of rejection and it’s been hard and it hurts and yes, betrayal, and what does it really mean to feed Christ’s sheep today and she has to figure that if that’s the way we show we really do love Him.

Anne, the other one with the fanciful “e” and curling hair, she’s thinking about Peter with a battered faith who says I’m outta here, I’m going fishing, and a Jesus who won’t let Him go, who wants him to build His church even when he’s betrayed Him three times and that’s a kind of love she needs right now.

Then Mama turns to me, “And for you, Ann? How is He shaping you through this passage?”

The sun’s warmer now on our faces, higher over the corn behind Mama’s house. A robin’s singing with the cardinal.

“Well, there’s the fact He asks us to trust him when it feels like we’ve been in a long night and caught nothing and will we trust Him, do what He says, when He asks the unconventional of us: “Throw your net on the right side of the boat”….

And there’s this: … the wild love waiting for us at the end of dark, empty nights of the soul — the kind of love that has breakfast waiting for us on the beach, the fish and bread all ready for us… but really… and this is what I keep coming back to,” I glance around anxious at their faces and I run on excited, “I keep coming back to this:

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore.

It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn.

Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”

None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?”

They knew it was the Lord.

I look up. They look blank.

I try again. “It was full of large fish — 153!”

Mama nods slowly… waiting for the epiphany to strike. Annette’s smiling politely. Anne’s fingering the corner of her page, re-reading the text.

I just blurt it out: “Someone had counted the fish!”

Peter, the failure, the reject, the broken, he had counted fish.

Now they all smile, nod politely. My cheeks are hot. I distract with reaching for my cup of tea, swig back a long gulp, and sputter out something about it getting that time and maybe it’s time to close in prayer?

We go around the circle and the sun’s sure now, strong, and we each pray passionate for the woman to the right of us, for her bruises and for her dark night and for her longings and that she might be fed, her nets full to overflowing in the morning and that we would each really love Jesus.

We squeeze hands with the final Amen.

And for a moment, we all sit still and silent in the sun. I close my eyes, listen to the world waking. The light feels healing. The robin keeps singing. A back door closes down the street. I can hear a car start.

“Well, you’d all better get back to families!” Mama’s gathering plates off the deck table. We carry in teacups from the back deck, wander in through her house for our shoes.

And there it is on Mama’s kitchen table. Stacks of photographs, pictures scattered, laying there in open books.

Us three Anns pause on our way through.

Mama sets the teapot on the counter. “Yes, forgive the piles. All week, I’ve been sorting out the years. Filing them into albums.”

I scan my history — my Mama’s. I hurt inside.

A child abused. A wife replaced. A mother broken. 

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Annette leans over, points to a black and white image of a little girl holding a doll, her mother’s hand.

“Who is this?”

“That’s me — ” Mama smiles. Annette’s eyes grow big, picks it up for a closer look at time.

There are photos of Mama a toddler, her sitting on her father’s lap, a color-tinted photograph of her mother, Mama’s first Christmas with my father, his gold-band hand resting on her shoulder.

Photos of me sleeping on Dad’s chest, my first steps, my Dad holding me brand new in the heat of an August dusk. Mama looks so young. Her whole life is laid out across the table on kodak paper.

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Anne points to one a white-blonde girl with sky blue eyes playing in a cardboard box. “And this?”

Aimee.”

Mama says her name quiet and holy, name of my younger sister who was killed before Mama’s eyes.

I want to find the door, run away home. I want to pick up the photo of Aimee and me and Mama sitting on the orange flowered couch with my brother, my Dad and I want to go back and make it right, make it all hold. My parent’s marriage. My sister’s life. Us.

Mama picks up the picture for me, of us all. Holds it so I can see. Dad’s smiling.

I remember when Mama had long hair like that, dark and thick and wavy, under a kerchief. When they were married and we were all together and I remember Aimee’s giggle and her alive.

“Yes… “ she traces faces… says the words more to another time than to us right here. “Now you can see why I’ve been working through rejection.”

I swallow hard. When we can’t say it and we just want to run away, Jesus asks our question for us, again and again, “Do you truly love me?”

Anne nods understanding towards Mama and Mama looks across the table, asks in this wounded whisper, “What do you do with all this?” It’s her life.

We are silent.

And then it comes, and I murmur it quiet:

“You count fish?”

Mama turns to me and I reach for snapshot of John and Aimee and I playing in the sandbox and I say it slow.

“You pull in your life and you see that though you felt ripped open —- the net actually didn’t tear.

That there’s grace in your net.

And you actually count them.

You make sure you count the fish. So you don’t have to ask who it is –  You know it is the Lord.” I feel the lump in my throat ebbing.

“You count every single grace that He gave through the long dark night, and you see that there are more than 153. Far more than 153. It’s a feast!” I look up. Mama’s looking at me.

“You count fish….” she nods.

And clasps her hands and laughs lovely and soft and long and she is beautiful. The epiphany strikes: “You just keep always counting the fish!”

It’s when you count blessings — you see Who can be counted on.

It’s when you count the ways He loves, that your life multiplies joy.

It’s a life that counts blessings  — that discovers it’s yielding more than it seems.

“The secret to joy — is to keep seeking God where you doubt He is.”      {excerpted from One Thousand Gifts }

Us four stand around a table picking up photos and the pain from the past.

And we’ve lingered over Scripture so long that now we’ll live it and we are disciples counting the blessings hauled in by a life.

I hold one picture long.

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And I count it twice.

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In Christ, you’re a native of heaven right now.
You aren’t a citizen of here trying to work into heaven.
You’re a citizen of heaven trying to work through here.

– Ann Voskamp

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Where is your citizenship?

We all have birth certificates and passports that declare where our home is, in the eyes of our individual ‘Caesars,’ but this life is short, and those legal documents declaring our Earthly citizenship do not take us into Eternity.

The citizenship of our Foreverland is stamped, in blood, and we do not have to fill out forms to apply, we simply have to be willing to receive. And once we receive, we have arrived, safe in the homeland of the kingdom of God that exists here and now, that exists for all eternity with Christ.

We have all had moments in our lives when we have felt that we were not quite there yet, as though our new passport has not arrived in the post, or we, like in the following story, have arrived at the border, the airport, the train station, the boat dock without proof of where we belong. We have all had times when, sitting around the board table, the pot luck table, the family dinner table, we felt like an illegal alien who does not fit, who does not belong … and oh, how we yearn to belong! Oh, how we yearn …

The yearning is a gift, a reminder, that we were made for a garden … and a garden was made for us.

But …

even when the weeds seem to strangle,
even when the soil is no longer rich but dry like dust,
even when the rains are washing away our crop …

this weed-infested,
heartache-filled,
I-don’t-know-what-to-do-next citizenship on sin-filled planet Earth …

is also created by the great garden tender, who also created us.

This is the kingdom

We are the kingdom-bearers

Children of the great high king

Ruler of heaven …

and Earth.

Even though we sometimes say to ourselves, “I can’t believe they let you in.”

And here follows a reminder about citizenship, by Ann Voskamp …

“Someone has to be that Mother.
 
That mother who drives a full 3 hours to the border with a packed mini-van and anxious kids and creeps through a 20 minute traffic backup under the hot, beating sun, only to rifle through her wallet and look up feebly to tell the custom’s officer she doesn’t have birth certificates for 2 of her children.
 
So that would be me.
 
“Do you have any ID at all — for either one of them?”
 
The custom’s officer asks it gently. Like he doesn’t want to push the flustered and flailing over any imagined or very real edge.
 
He glances back at the long snake of vehicles behind me, waiting. In the sun. That’s not moving either.
 
“Um… no.” I shuffle through my wallet again. “No, sir — I don’t.” Does the earth open up and swallow the Abiram of mothers?
 
“I’m so sorry, sir. If I can just turn around?” I close up my wallet and I can feel it up the neck, the face — the mother shame burning like a red-hot brand. How in the world? What kind of mother…. ?
 
I’m already cranking at the steering wheel, trying to get this mess turned around, thinking that when you can’t swallow down any grace, you turn yourself back from the land of the free.
 
“Just a moment, ma’am. Open up the door here.” He waves my passport in the direction of the van’s side door. I fumble behind me, try to unlatch it, still hoping the earth might open up instead. The officer pops his head in. “Birthdates, kids.”
 
Birthdates?
 
Joshua states his month, day, year and Hope leans forward and I’m the realist who doesn’t hold out much hope at all.
 
The officer taps it into his computer, glances over at me, “And are they Canadian citizens?”
 
“Yes?”
 
And I really try to say it like I’m not always a tentative Canadian, like it’s not a question, like I’m dubious, like I think he’s just gleefully extending the torture of my ineptness and embarrassment of not having one piece of paper to prove anything — because isn’t this the United States of America and when exactly did they start letting in hicks without a passport, without a birth certificate?
 
He looks up from the screen.
 
“Welcome to the United States, ma’am. Have a nice day.”
 
And he hands me my passport.
 
“Welcome?” Um … Really? “But if you let us into the States…” I stammer it out —”

And now click here, When You Sort of Feel Like You Don’t Belong, to read the rest. And for my family who knows they matter, there’s a rainbow at the end!

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