Repost: The Authority of Compassion

I don’t like pain.

I don’t enjoy suffering.  

But deep pain and suffering have left a lasting impression on my soul.  Experiencing the loss of a child has enlarged my heart and sharpened my senses to the pain and suffering around me.

Choosing transparency in pain is hard and vulnerability is frightening.

But when I let others in, they see that I am just like them. I struggle, I cry out for mercy, I need God’s grace, mercy and strength to carry on.

And that lends authority to my invitation to meet Jesus.

The Authority of Compassion

We Are ALL Bruised Reeds from Henri Nouwen

I find great comfort in Henri Nouwen’s words. 

He was a Catholic priest who struggled with depression at times and ended his years living and serving at L’Arche-a community of able and disabled persons living together.

He wrote extensively and honestly and openly about his own struggles.  He was full of compassion for fellow travelers. 

He was honest about loose ends. 

I like that.

I’m sure I would have liked him too. 

Not Breaking the Bruised Reeds

Some of us tend to do away with things that are slightly damaged. Instead of repairing them we say: “Well, I don’t have time to fix it, I might as well throw it in the garbage can and buy a new one.” Often we also treat people this way. We say: “Well, he has a problem with drinking; well, she is quite depressed; well, they have mismanaged their business…we’d better not take the risk of working with them.” When we dismiss people out of hand because of their apparent woundedness, we stunt their lives by ignoring their gifts, which are often buried in their wounds.

We all are bruised reeds, whether our bruises are visible or not. The compassionate life is the life in which we believe that strength is hidden in weakness and that true community is a fellowship of the weak.

– Henri J. M. Nouwen

If you would like to receive daily devotionals from his writings you can click here and sign up:  henrinouwen.org

bruised reed

God’s Timeless Time

Henri Nouwen is one of my favorite authors.  His gentle spirit and kind heart shine in every word.

I have learned a lot from him.

This is one of my favorite passages, especially as I contemplate life after Dominic has left us.

On the one hand I feel as if I am leaving Dominic behind-time on earth marches on and event after event rolls past without his presence or participation.  

On the other hand, I feel as if Dominic has run ahead to our forever home and must be waiting for us as much as we long for him.

But Nouwen’s words remind me that time will no longer be something I think about or worry about once we are all together in the Presence of our Savior.

There is no “after” after death. Words like after and before belong to our mortal life, our life in time and space. Death frees us from the boundaries of chronology and brings us into God’s “time,” which is timeless. Speculations about the afterlife, therefore, are little more than just that: speculations. Beyond death there is no “first” and “later,” no “here” and “there,” no “past,” “present,” or “future.” God is all in all. The end of time, the resurrection of the body, and the glorious coming again of Jesus are no longer separated by time for those who are no longer in time.

For us who still live in time, it is important not to act as if the new life in Christ is something we can comprehend or explain. God’s heart and mind are greater than ours. All that is asked of us is trust.

 

What Else Can I Do?

I will confess right here that this week I am more than tired. 

I’m defeated. 

I have fought the good fight, tried hard to endure and worked myself nearly to death and in the end can’t move the challenging situations I face one inch closer to resolution.

And like I’ve written before here,these months and years after Dominic ran to heaven have amply demonstrated the truth of the phrase “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.  It’s not the STRAW, it’s the unbelievable heavy weight the camel is already carrying!

That last, seemingly tiny, almost weightless additional burden sends the poor critter over the edge.

straw that broke camel back

But unlike a dumb animal, I don’t get to just lay down and give up.  My head and my heart tell me that if I do, the load will just shift to my family.  If I quit I can’t simply drift off into witless sleep where I don’t realize how hard I’m making it for everyone else.

So I don’t give up. 

I keep on keeping on. 

I raise my eyes to the sky and beg God to give me the grace and strength and help to endure. 

I beg for mercy-for some small token that things might just get better.  

I lean into the promises of God in Christ and hold on with both hands.  

What else can I do but keep praying to You even when I feel dark;

to keep writing about You even when I feel numb;

to keep speaking Your name even when I feel alone.

Come, Lord Jesus come.

Have mercy on me, a sinner.

-Henri Nouwen

 

Repost: Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.

It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.

Read the rest here:  Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

Move Over, Make Room for the Broken

I used to position myself at the end of the pew, just in case someone I’m not too comfortable with might come along and try to sit down.

It saved us both that awkward conversation where they ask if they can join me and I say “yes” with my mouth but “no” with my body language.

Frankly, I was at church to be lifted up so I could face the coming week with power and strength. I didn’t want to be dragged down by their reality of brokenness and sometimes bitter tears.

I don’t do that anymore.

I realize that most of what made me uncomfortable was other people’s pain.

Now I’m the one who’s broken.  I’m the one who can’t get through “Amazing Grace” without blubbering.

And I’m the one that others hope won’t ask to join THEM.

But here’s the deal:  God loves the broken.  Christ came for the broken.  It’s the broken and breathless who long for the Spirit to blow life across their wounded hearts.

It’s the hopeless and fearful that run faster to the safety of their Shepherd.

It’s the worried and weary who are thankful for a Burden-bearer.

When I refuse to move over and make room for the broken, I’m barring the way for the very ones who most desperately need the blessing.  When I want my worship experience to exclude those who haven’t the strength to bring their own hearts before the throne of grace, I’m being selfish.  

And that is sin.

Jesus went out of His way to heal the hurting,

to bless the broken and

to speak strength to the weary.

So now I sit in the middle of the pew and leave room for whoever God brings my way.

I want to be an open door, not a gatekeeper.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” ~Jesus

(Matthew 11:28-30 PHILLIPS)

Monday Musings: Be Kind

I wrote and scheduled this post BEFORE the Nice terrorist attack and BEFORE the gunning down of police officers in Baton Rouge just yesterday morning.

But how very timely-as long as we divide the world into “us” and “them” we fuel hatred and acts of violence.  As long as we choose rhetoric rather than reason we encourage a mindset that believes only radical action will spur change.

As I wrote over a week ago, My Heart Hurts.  And I refuse to be part of the division that will only surely result in more death and destruction.

Instead I will choose to be radically kind.

This year has been filled with divisive politics, headlines and heartbreaking reminders of the many ways people can hurt one another.

I have my own opinions and positions on various issues and sometimes they are at odds with those of my friends or acquaintances.

But I am committed to speak, write and interact with everyone I meet in kindness-respecting our differences.

be kind2

Because we are all image-bearers of the One True God.

James said, With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God’s likeness. Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen!” (James 3:9-10 GW)

Jesus answered the question, “Who is my neighbor?” with a well-known parable that shocked His audience and challenged their preconceived ideas.

As soon as I ask, “Who is my neighbor?” I am trying to draw a circle around who I should and should not be obligated to treat with kindness and love.  

I’m not going to do that.

Henri Nouwen writes:

Kindness is a beautiful human attribute. When we say, “She is a kind person” or “He surely was kind to me,” we express a very warm feeling. In our competitive and often violent world, kindness is not the most frequent response. But when we encounter it we know that we are blessed. Is it possible to grow in kindness, to become a kind person? Yes, but it requires discipline. To be kind means to treat another person as your “kin,” your intimate relative. We say, “We are kin” or “He is next of kin.” To be kind is to reach out to someone as being of “kindred” spirit.

Here is the great challenge: All people, whatever their color, religion, or sex, belong to humankind and are called to be kind to one another, treating one another as brothers and sisters. There is hardly a day in our lives in which we are not called to this.

 I can purpose to listen even when I disagree.