ALL Things Through Christ

It is kind of a catchy saying to plaster across a Christian school’s gymnasium wall.

I know the one who decided to put it there meant well.  But “I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength” is absolutely NOT about lifting weights, running an extra lap or hitting a ball out of the park.

No. No. NO.

Can we just look at it in context, please?

I’m glad in God, far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re again showing such strong concern for me. Not that you ever quit praying and thinking about me. You just had no chance to show it. Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am. I don’t mean that your help didn’t mean a lot to me—it did. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.

Phillipians 4::12-14 MSG

Paul was thanking friends for their concern and aid.  But he didn’t want them to think he was desperately needy.  He was assuring them that because he had found utter fulfillment in Christ and through Christ and that he could be content no matter his outward circumstances.

But there is something else here too-another tidbit overlooked in our desire to lift verses out of context.

While Paul was content in his circumstances, while he was at peace and settled in his soul, he was also deeply grateful that his friends had remembered him.  He was encouraged that they had sent aid and lifted prayers and inquired as to his well-being.

Being content does not preclude discouragement.  

I can feel both deep peace and experience confusion over my present circumstances.  

It’s just then that I need faithful friends to remind me that I’m not alone and I’m not abandoned.  That is precisely the moment my spirit cries out for compassionate companionship.

This life is not meant to be lived alone-even in a prison cell.  

It’s meant to be lived in community with others who come alongside and call courage to our hearts.  

word of encouragement is the fuel for hope

 

 

 

Feeling Our Way in the Dark

Often this journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death is dark and lonely.  

man in woods with glowing light

I am frightened of what may lay in wait-tragedy has visited once, it could come again.

I know Jesus is my Shepherd and I never doubt His companionship.  But if I’m honest, as much as I lean into that truth, it’s oh, so helpful to have a living, breathing human being walk with me.

So when a friend reaches out and takes my trembling hand it calls courage to my heart.

When we huddle together in the dark places, waiting out the storm of grief or doubt, it gives me strength to carry on.

Never, never underestimate the power of presence.

For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face, and now we know in part, but then we shall know fully just as we have been fully known

I Corinthians 13:12

So until then, what?
We feel our way in the dark.
Until we find each other.
We huddle together in the storm.
Wet and shivering, but together.
And maybe in the end it will be our huddling in the storm that gives us more comfort than our understanding of the storm.”

~Ken Gire, The Weathering Grace of God

 

me too sharing the path

Note To Self: Forward is Forward

I’m pretty sure the first time I wrote a note to myself was in second grade.

I had discovered a book of quotes and decided that some were worth remembering so I copied them down and taped them to my bedroom wall

Now I have notes all over the house-on kitchen cabinets, the refrigerator door, my bathroom mirror, above my bed-anywhere my eyes might land when my heart needs encouragement.

Here are the ones I have posted now:

[Be present.]

I don’t want to miss a single moment with the ones I love because I know too well that more moments are not promised.

[Choose to listen.]

It’s so easy to babble on and not HEAR the other person in front of me or on the phone.  I already know what I’M thinking and feeling, listening is the only way to know what THEY’RE thinking and feeling.

[Escape ruts.]

Habits are helpful when they remind me to brush my teeth.  Not so much when they lead me down paths of fruitless relationship patterns and knee-jerk responses.  I’m not a thoughtless amoeba.  I can change.

[Forward is forward.]

If I am ONE INCH closer to my goal then I have made progress.  I refuse to be discouraged, no matter how slowly I am walking, crawling or limping ahead.

[Laugh!]

Laughter makes life lighter.  There is already too much heaviness in this journey.  Never miss a chance to laugh and lighten the load.

[Do small things with great love.]

I will never take a national stage or be able to address giant problems, but I can bend down to kiss a skinned knee, open a door for an old lady and bake cookies for my neighbor.  I won’t neglect or despise the small things waiting for the big ones that will never come along.

[The best is yet to come.]

The life I see is not all the life there is.  In fact, it’s not even the best life there is.  The best is yet to come when all this pain and sorrow and hurt will be redeemed.  My heart and my family will be restored.  My tears will be wiped away and I will stand in the glorious Presence of God and Christ forever.

[Love wins.]

I have a choice of what I allow to fill my broken heart.  I will not choose bitterness. Bitterness is buried with the heart that carries it.  But love lasts forever.  Its impact ripples through eternity.  It cannot be silenced or stopped.

 

love God love others rocks

Something To Sing About

If you live in the city or a heavily-developed neighborhood you may only see a few birds. But out here in the country, with plenty of cover and a variety of bugs, trees and weeds, there are dozens of species living within earshot of my house.

sing aloud every day

And I love, love, love hearing their songs.

Sometimes it’s the keening wail of a hawk flying high and searching for something to eat. Sometimes it’s an owl calling to its mate or warning off another suitor.  Often it’s the chitter-chatter of wrens or robins or cardinals as they go about their daily business and fuss over patches of ground finding food.

The blue-jays chase the squirrels.

Mockingbirds dive-bomb crows.

Each one doing what it was created to do, not worrying about a thing.

A veritable chorus fills the air.

And at night I get a lovely bonus-a whippoorwill’s voice drifts toward my window through the dark reminding me that not everyone is ready to fall asleep.

All these songs make my heart sing too.

They lift my spirit and fill me with hope.

They remind me that I have also been given a song though I often forget it.

Yet in the light of day, the Eternal shows me His love.
    When night settles in and all is dark, He keeps me company—
    His soothing song, a prayerful melody to the True God of my life.

Psalm 42:8 VOICE

But when I choose to remember and sing, it calls courage to my heart.  

sing anyway 2

 

 

Church Signs

Can I just say I’m not a fan of church signs?

I could list a dozen reasons but here I will simply list one:  It is impossible to constrain good theology to the few words that will fit on most church signs.

The temptation to be funny, cute or trite generally overcomes any desire to be biblically accurate.

Case in point-just down the road from me is this sign:

THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS, ONLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR GOD TO WORK.

I could write for days on why I hate (yes, HATE!) this sign.  But I’ll restrain myself.

Here are the top three reasons I want to close my eyes when I pass it:

  1.  It’s simply does not line up with Scripture.  Paul gives a list of “problems” in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27.  Did God help him?  Yes!  But was Paul discouraged?  Yes!  He turned to God but was also thankful for the practical help of those who cared about him and gave him aid.
  2. People who are struggling are not encouraged by platitudes.  Platitudes close the door to further discussion.  They are a giant “period” in a conversation.  If the purpose of your sign is to invite others in, this one will do just the opposite.
  3. Preaching this foolishness (in person or by sign) lets congregants off the hook.  If there are no problems then there is no reason to extend a helping hand.  If God will handle it-why should I get my hands dirty or waste my time?

This week alone I have dealt with at least ten “problems” that required practical solutions in addition to prayers that God would help work them out.

Did He make some things fall in place that otherwise might not?  Probably.  And for that I am very thankful.

But did He shower solutions from the sky like raindrops?  No.  I had to face the problems, look for solutions and ask for help from others.

When Christ instituted the church it was not for us to sit inside four walls and dole out pithy platitudes to passersby.  It was for us to be His hands and feet in the world.

Truth is that God DOES work.  But most often He works through US.

All around us are people hungry for the Good News of Jesus Christ.

If we are going to put out a sign, could it just say, “We welcome the broken, the wounded, the hurting, the ones with no hope”?

Isn’t THAT what Jesus came to do?

weary

 

 

 

Unafraid

I’ve never been really big on fear.

I jumped from the high dive at three years old-that belly flop hurt but I survived and it fueled my adventurous spirit.

I rode horses other people didn’t like-was bucked off a time or two but no broken bones so that didn’t slow me down.

IMG_0210

My dad had an open cockpit biplane and we flew aerobatics over Colorado Springs-fanny pack parachute strapped to my butt “just in case”-upside down and round and round. We never needed to jump and landed safely every time.

great lakes biplane

Never been afraid of speaking in public.

Never been afraid of strangers.

Never been afraid of heights.

UNTIL.

Until I had children and then I was afraid of nearly EVERYTHING for them.

I didn’t want any harm to befall these tiny humans carrying my heart outside my body.  I wanted to protect them, to cushion them, to wrap them in a bubble so that nothing bad ever happened to them.

As they grew, I learned to let go- a little at a time.  I learned you can’t prevent the scrapes and bruises and heartaches and disappointments of life.  And I learned that a little “harm” made them stronger.

IMG_1977

I forgot most of my fears and was again unafraid.

UNTIL Dominic was killed.

And all the old fears came rushing back.  I wanted to lock my surviving children in a room and slip food under the door.  I HAD to keep them safe.

Only I can’t.  It is not possible for me to keep. them. safe.

All I could possibly do is make them afraid.  I could make them afraid of choosing their hearts’ desires in an attempt to prevent more pain for mine.

I won’t do that.

I will not allow part of Dominic’s legacy to be that our family lives afraid.

NO.

I choose to release my children to make the best choices they can and to live boldly and unafraid.

 

Tomorrow, Tomorrow

It took me nearly two years to hang a wall calendar again.  It took that long, plus some, to add anything to it besides close family birthdays and doctor’s appointments.

I would record what I did AFTER the fact, but I just couldn’t let my heart make plans.

Because I had made planslots and lots of plans-before Dominic ran ahead to heaven unexpectedly and wrecked them all.

There’s another reason looking forward is hard on my heart:

No matter how wonderful the event, no matter how anticipated the birth, or wedding, or graduation, or party-there will always, always, always be one person missing.

I still find making plans difficult.  

I don’t make many and the ones I do make I hold lightly.  I warn friends that I may get up the “morning of” and decide that I just cannot do it.  The closest ones (the only ones I really have left) totally understand and never pressure me otherwise.

But as I have rounded the corner of three years, I am beginning to be able to look a little bit further in the distance.  

I am able to pencil in some fun things more than a week in advance.  I’ve even started looking up ideas on Pinterest again-ideas for birthday gifts months in advance, for dinner table decorations and for craft projects to occupy the hottest parts of summer days.

And I’m learning to take Dominic WITH me as I walk into tomorrow after tomorrow without his physical presence.  I’m finding ways to keep him close, to have him near, to share him with others so that the vibrant man he was (and still IS-in heaven) is remembered and honored.

The fact is that tomorrow comes whether I am dragged kicking and screaming into the new day or whether I go willingly, with purpose and with grace.

I am trying to choose purpose and grace.

Sometimes it’s really, really hard.

But when I do-it’s worth it.

sometimes helps me wake up brene brown