Heritage of Sorrow

I am convinced that one of the main reasons we detest tears, sorrow and lament is because we’ve adopted a cardboard copy of the true gospel message.

When Christ came, He was (in part) missed by many because they were looking for a King who would save them from their physical misery and oppression under Rome. When He offered them the keys to a Kingdom not of this world, a Kingdom that would fill their hearts and souls but not necessarily their bellies, many turned away.

Our tears remind folks that while many in North America (especially) live a life that is relatively peaceful, abundant and overflowing with material blessings, bad things happen.

As a matter of fact, bad things happen with no explanation, no earthly remedy and no way through but through.

Who wants to be reminded of that if your life is so lovely you don’t have to be?

It’s an odd thing. Jesus wept. Job wept. David wept. Jeremiah wept. They did it openly. Their weeping became a matter of public record. Their weeping sanctioned by inclusion in our Holy Scriptures, a continuing and reliable witness that weeping has an honored place in the life of faith.

But just try it yourself. Even, maybe especially, in church where these tear-soaked Scriptures are provided to shape our souls and form our behavior. Before you know it a half-dozen men and women surround you with handkerchiefs, murmuring reassurances, telling you that it is going to be alright, intent on helping you to ‘get over it.’

Why are Christians, of all people, embarrassed by tears, uneasy in the presence of sorrow, unpracticed in the language of lament? It certainly is not a biblical heritage, for virtually all our ancestors in the faith were thoroughly ‘acquainted with grief.’ And our Savior was, as everyone knows, ‘a Man of Sorrows.’

~Eugene Patterson

 

When You Just Don’t Feel Thankful

It’s all well and good when things are going just dandy to post a daily, “I’m thankful for [whatever]”.

It’s another thing entirely when the bottom has fallen out or your world is turned upside down or your heart is shattered and you can’t find even the tiniest spark of gratitude in your dark world.

Yet the Bible clearly states I am to “give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:18)

thanks in all things blackboard

REALLY?????

I am absolutely NOT thankful that my son is dead.

I am not thankful my family circle is broken and my living children have to carry the weight of sibling loss for a lifetime.

I am not thankful that there will always be an empty chair at every holiday gathering regardless of how many show up around the table.

But the verse doesn’t say I have to be thankful FOR all circumstances, but instead to be thankful IN them.

Even on the morning of the dreadful news, I was filled with gratitude for the knowledge that nothing can separate me from the love of God.  

nothing-can-separate-hands

As I held the hands of two of my living children, I was oh, so thankful that they were there and that I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that we would walk through this together as a family.  

When the sun came up, my heart reminded me that the world was still turning and God was still on the throne.  

sunrise trees

And while it was a long, long time before these feelings were more than faint whispers against a background of screaming pain, I could still hear them.  

Now I have learned that thankfulness and brokenness can live side by side in a heart and in a life.  One does not overshadow or negate the other.

I may not be thankful for what I’m going through (frankly, I’m not) but I am thankful I’m not going through it alone.

I can come into the Presence of my God any time I choose because Jesus has made a way. I can bring my petitions before the Throne of Grace because there is no longer any veil separating me from the Father.

And I am always, always thankful for that. 

you are not alone

Cast That Burden!

Living with child loss means I am already weighted down.  

And when life adds more to THAT load, it isn’t long until I feel overwhelmed and anxious, frightened and weak. 

carrying-a-heavy-load

Jesus invites me to give Him my burdens.

He wants me to let go of them and allow Him to do the heavy lifting because the truth is, He’s already doing it, I only have to realize it.  

casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].

I Peter 5:7 AMP

I was just talking to another mom about this yesterday-the casting is for MY benefit.

Jesus is already carrying my burden,

When I try to take it back, all I do is create stress and heartache for myself.

Instead I need to lean into the truth that He is my burden-bearer, my ever present help in time of trouble.

He sees me,

loves me

and will never leave me. 

So what are you toting that you need to lay down?

cast your burde

Grace Like Rain: Why It’s So Darn Hard to Ask For Help

I would much rather be the one bringing the casserole than the one receiving it.  

Not because I’m ungrateful but because I’m uncomfortable.

It is humbling to have to depend on other people.  It’s hard to admit I can’t manage on my own.  It’s downright humiliating to need help with daily tasks that used to come easy.

But truth is, I cannot make it alone.

Not now and really, not before-although I had kept up a pretty good front for decades.  

While it is hard and humbling and sometimes humiliating, it’s healthy to admit when I’ve reached the end of my own reserves.

Because we were made for relationship. 

Helping one another is how human hearts connect and grow together. It’s how we experience grace.

And there’s more than enough grace to go around.  

Remember studying the water cycle in elementary school?  A great big circle-from the ocean to the sky raining down on the dry land and running back to the ocean.  Plenty of water to go around.

Never actually being used up, just rearranged and reapportioned.

Grace is like that.  It passes from one heart to the next to the next.  Rearranged and reapportioned but never used up.

When I give, that’s wonderful.  That’s easy (for me) because it makes me feel like I’m in control, on top, doing my part.

When I receive, that’s a little harder.  Because I feel like maybe I’m not trying hard enough, not working diligently enough, not contributing my share.

But that’s a lie. 

Because ultimately ALL grace flows from God through Christ. 

When I give, I’m giving out of the abundance He has showered on me.  When I receive, I am receiving out of the abundance He has showered on someone else.

In the end, it’s all God.  

If I refuse the grace He offers through others, I’m refusing HIM. 

Not them.  

I need to remember that.  

grace is a blanket of hope

 

 

We’ve Got To Do Better: Making Ministry the Heart of Church

I am not among those who have given up on the local church.

But I AM critical of the way we in the U.S. –and especially the Southern U.S. -do church.

Let’s be honest. 

Most of us go to church because it makes us feel good, refuels our spirits for the week ahead and is a safe spot to park our kids for a few hours respite from the demands of parenthood.

An added bonus is that sometimes we get to contribute to a cause, a mission or a personal need without having to get TOO involved.

So we come away feeling pretty good about who we are, what we believe and how much we “sacrifice” for others and the Kingdom.

But this is not what Christ came for folks.

He didn’t come so that we can have a weekly club meeting, soothe our souls and shut out the world.  He came so that desperate hearts on the fringe could draw near.

He rent the veil so that no one who trusts His finished work is excluded.

Not even the messy and imperfect.

Not even the poor or unlovely or slightly crazy.

We have got to do better.

We have got to make church a place where people who have no hope feel like they are welcome.  We have got to reach out and reach down and reach across and pull those hurting hearts inside.

I know (believe, me, I know!) that it takes more energy than you want to exert.  It takes more flexibility than a crammed-full schedule can allow.  It takes more time and more emotional investment than any of us really want to spend.

But this is what Christ came for.

He came to expose the barriers religious people had erected between God and man. 

He came to make a way where there was no way.

How welcome are the truly broken to our house of worship? Do we want to see their pain, entertain their questions and offer hope that includes walking the road alongside them and giving support for the long haul?

Jesus came to heal the broken.

Healing takes time and resources. It requires personal commitment to those God brings into our lives. It is messy and can’t be boiled down to a formula or pamphlet.

Jesus has invited is to be His hands and feet.

Will we accept the invitation?

christ has no body but yours teresa of avila

If I Could Sing One Song This Would Be It: “Love the Broken”

I definitely don’t have a solo quality voice.

I can carry a tune but it’s best carried mixed in with others in a choir so the occasional missed note is barely noticeable. 

But if I was granted the ability to belt out a single song and have it broadcast far and wide, this would be it:  “Love the Broken”.

Not, “Love the Lovely” or “Love the Sexy” or even “Love the One Who Loves You Back”.

Nope.  

It would definitely be, “Love the Broken”.  

do justly love mercy

This is the song I’ve learned the hard way.  It’s the song that’s been burned into my heart and mind and soul and spirit.  It’s the song that resonates in any language, across time and across miles.

It’s the song every single heart can understand.

Because we have all been broken at one time or another.  

And we have all desperately needed love at one time or another.

I’m really not that great at many things.  I’m a decent cook, a mediocre housekeeper, a devoted but probably not up-to-the-highest-standards shepherd, a lazy gardener, and a wish-I-could-follow-directions-better crafter.

But I am a full on, all out, no-holds-barred lover.  

I am unashamed to speak blessing over strangers in public places.  

I will not be silenced by a sheepish glance when my kids wish I’d just stop telling them how very much they fill my heart with so many good things.  

I hug.  I give cheek kisses.  I hold the hand of a person whose heart is breaking just so they know they are not alone.

I believe with my whole heart that at least one verse of the New Song we will sing in Heaven is “Love the Broken”.  

Because isn’t that really what Christ came to do?

His ultimate act of sacrifice was to bring the broken and outcast into the Kingdom.  

He is Hope for the hopeless, love for the unloved, peace for the war weary soul. 

Truth is, I’m going to spend my life on something.

I want to spend it like Jesus.

the one little person you love

Hard Stops: When You Can’t Ignore the Missing

Most of the time I’m just kind of rolling along.

There are things to do, places to go, people to see, animals to feed.

I get up, get going and get on with it.

But there are some days that are what I call “Hard Stops” on this journey.  They are the days that force my heart to take special notice of the fact that Dominic isn’t here.

Sometimes they are milestone days like birthdays or holidays or the anniversary of that awful knock on the door.

Sometimes they are events where he should be there-like seeing his brother one more time before he deploys half-way around the world.

These days make my heart measure the time since I last hugged his neck, heard his voice, saw his strong, square hands reach across the table for the salt shaker-and I am overcome with how long it has been!

Then my heart shifts to the months and likely years I will have to live with this aching empty place where he should be but isn’t and I fear I just can’t do it!

Many days I’m able to distract myself from the sorrow and to live with the missing.

But these “hard stop” days force me to face it head on. and it is overwhelming. 

Every. Time.

So what do I do? 

When my heart is overwhelmed, I take it to the Rock that is higher than I.  

rock that is higher than i

I run to the Refuge of my Faithful Father.  

sing of strength you are my refuge

I turn my eyes to my Savior Who will redeem and restore.

restore after season of suffering

I put my hand firmly in the hand of my Shepherd Who will not leave me in this Valley of the Shadow of Death.  

jesus the shepherd the i am

And I pray for myself-and every heart having a hard time holding onto hope today-that we will feel the Father’s loving arms around us and that He will give us strength to stand.  ❤