No Perfect Formula

Everyone loves a formula.

We spend millions (billions?) of dollars seeking the perfect, easy way to whittle our waistlines.  We spend hours (days?) googling tips on reducing clutter, improving relationships, decorating our homes (Pinterest, anyone?).

Christian bookstores are filled with tantalizing titles that promise a quick and effortless method for happiness and holiness.

We just want someone to tell us what to do, when to do it and exactly how to do it–we want life to work like a math problem: 2+2=4.

Sometimes, for a season, it looks like a formula might work.

But there is nothing predictable about life. And as long as people are involved, there’s no reliable method to accurately predict outcomes.

It’s just not that simple.

Looking for the perfect equation to balance life’s challenges distracts me from the life I’m actually living.  It offers false hope that one day, some way and somewhere, things will be “perfect”.

It seduces me into thinking that people behave like numbers and that I can size them up, put them in the math machine and turn out identical and predictable products.

Burying a child rips that notion right out of your head.

Nothing predictable about that.

There are no shortcuts.  No pat answers.  No perfect formulas.

Life is relationship.

With God,

with people,

with ourselves.

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

Ephesians 4:2-3 MSG

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

I woke up with this Scripture on my mind: “Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(Matthew 2:18b)

God warned Joseph in a dream, but apparently didn’t warn the other fathers.

It served His purposes for those children to die. There is no way to know if their mamas ever suspected the reason or understood the plan.

We read the “story” focused on Jesus-as is right. And we conclude that everything turns out well. But those families lived the rest of their lives with grieving hearts.

The Kingdom has always advanced at a steep cost and the ways of God are mysterious.

This tension is hard to  bear.

We live in a scripted world where we can watch and re-watch news, events, movies and Youtube videos.  We can read and re-read books. And our attention span is short.

Our compassion is often short, too.

We want to rush past the hard parts, the sad parts and the uncomfortable parts.

We want to get to the end of the story because we want to see how the parts fit together..

But when you are living the story, you can’t hurry to the end. You must live each day, each minute as it comes.

The only way to make it through is with patient compassion, tender mercy and extravagent grace.

Not as Strong as I Look

 

No matter how tightly I strap on my armor, grief sends arrows through the tiniest unprotected chink and pierces my heart.

There is no defense against the sound, the smell, the wayward memory that sends me back in time to when Dominic was alive and with me.

And once there, to drag myself forward to today—where he is neither—is torture. 

Sometimes the process can be a matter of seconds, the only evidence a blank stare or a single tear.  Other times the memories and the forceful return to the here and now unleashes a flood from my eyes and ends my usefulness for that day.

Either way, it’s exhausting. 

I think that might be one of the most surprising aspects of grief for me.  When it strikes hard (as it still does sometimes) it robs me of energy and the desire to do anything.

I am a “get-it-done” kind of person.

But there’s no way to get grief “done”. 

It works itself out in its own time and in its own way.

I can position my mind and my heart to heal by focusing on the promises of God in Scripture.  But I cannot hurry along the healing.

And healing, when it comes, will always be incomplete this side of heaven.

Please don’t mistake the fact that I can stand straight and look strong as proof that I am recovered. 

I am often frightened and sometimes I want to hide.

But vulnerable and wounded, I remain until God calls me home.

In His feathers He shall deliver you and under His wings you shall have refuge; His truth shall surround you as a supply of armor.

Psalm 91:4

Faithful Waiting

I fell in love with Ron Dicianni’s painting,  “Simeon’s Moment” many years ago.  My husband bought and framed a print for me and I sit opposite it every morning as I drink my coffee.

It never fails to touch my heart.

There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation,and the Holy Spirit was on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered[b] the temple complex. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for Him what was customary under the law, Simeon took Him up in his arms, praised God, and said:

Now, Master,
You can dismiss Your slave in peace,
as You promised.
 For my eyes have seen Your salvation.
You have prepared it
in the presence of all peoples—
 a light for revelation to the Gentiles[c]
and glory to Your people Israel.

Luke 2: 25-32 HCSB

We don’t know how long Simeon had waited, how many times he had looked at a male child brought for dedication only to realize that he must still wait–but we know that Simeon returned to the temple because he trusted God’s promise.

Then one day, perhaps a day he thought would be like any other, THERE HE WAS–Messiah had come.

As he cradled Jesus in his arms, spoke prophecy over his baby head, Simeon’s faithful waiting was rewarded.

Yet even at that moment, Simeon did not receive the fullness of the promise–Jesus was yet a tiny child.

But the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love flooded his soul and he was able to say,  “You can dismiss Your slave in peace,..for my eyes have seen Your salvation”.

Waiting is hard.  

I miss Dominic and I long for the time when my family circle will be restored.

Sometimes the days drag on and it seems as if the promised light and redemption is far away.

But one day, perhaps a day that begins like any other, CHRIST WILL COME.

So until then, I will rest in the foretaste of God’s trustworthy love and wait faithfully for His appearing.

 

What Really Matters

Every day we are bombarded by numbers.

We judge and are judged by how well we  “measure up”.

How much do I own?   How big is my house? How small is my waist?

But how do you measure the value of a life poured out for others?

As you gather with family (some more difficult than others) this Christmas think on this:

If you could pile regret- one missed moment, an unspoken word, a hasty retort, a too-busy-right-now-stacked akimbo tottering high above your head, it would never be tall enough or monumental enough to convey the heartbreak of not having a second chance to love the ones God has given you.

The only metric that matters in the end is how much and how well I love.

Your glory, LORD, lights up the world; where love is real, it shines.

 My beloved friends, let us continue to love each other since love comes from God. Everyone who loves is born of God and experiences a relationship with God. The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God is love—so you can’t know him if you don’t love. This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God.

My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!

I John 4:7-12 MSG

Anticipation

All around the world children climb in bed tonight, barely able to close their eyes because they can hardly wait for the celebration tomorrow.

Anticipation is a powerful motivator.

Looking forward to a reward, children may find that they really CAN behave.  Thinking ahead to family flooding in, parents might realize that those piles of clutter that have been too big to tackle are easy to get rid of.

Presents, food and family fellowship will bring in the new day.

Anticipation fuels expectations and all too often our perfectly imagined Christmas morning doesn’t quite measure up.

Inevitably someone will be disappointed because what they thought they were getting for Christmas isn’t under the tree.  Eventually a cross word disrupts the harmony and hurt feelings reign.

People disappoint us.  Life rarely turns out the way we think it should or hope it will.

But there is One in Whom I can place my trust.  One Whose name is Faithful and True.

He came as a Babe but reigns as a King.

My heart longs for the day when wrong is made right and my faith made sight.

On that Day, I will take hold of my heart’s hope and I will not be disappointed.

Until then I will rest in the real promise of Christmas:

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.

Luke 2:14 MSG

 

Costly Worship

I don’t know what the wise men expected to see.

It seems natural to us who know the story–who know the REST of the story–that they ended up finding Jesus-The King of the Jews-the One whose birth was announced by a star in a humble abode.

But I think it might have surprised those rich rulers traveling so far to worship Him.

In their experience, future kings were born in palaces, surrounded by servants.  Such births were announced and trumpeted loud and long.

So when they found this little child with poor parents in a poor house, perhaps they thought they were mistaken.

We don’t know because Scripture is silent on this point.

What we do know is that they offered the gifts they brought, they worshiped the One they had traveled long to see.

They undertook a treacherous and costly journey for the purpose of worship.

True worship is expensive.

To raise my voice and my hands after losing Dominic is hard. It requires that I trust God regardless of my circumstances.

It means I lay my treasure at His feet even when I don’t understand why or how He intends to use it.

But worship inclines my heart to the God Who made it.

Just like the star led the wise men, worship leads me to the feet of Jesus.

And there is where I can safely leave my treasure.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,

Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.

Matthew 2:1-2, 10-11 KJV