Homesick

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The Oregon winter is truly something to behold. Magic at play in the forest, freshly-washed and shrouded in fog, each branch cloaked and dripping bright green. A cloudy day parts to reveal the majestic face of the mountain reflecting the last few rays of the day off her snowcap.

I take far less pictures. They don’t even come close.

Some days the difference is so striking. Others, it feels like we’ve just swapped houses.

The status quo a car ride, traveling smoothly. My eye catches a street sign: Ely Street. Little reminders of home coming as small, unexpected blows.

Being away isn’t much trouble at all. Not unless you think about how far, how seemingly impossible home has become.

“But I left home too,” the Voice whispers, “For you, for them, for love.” 

And in this forest world so alien to me, this tide of homesickness binds me to my Savior. And though I may not fully count it joy, I refuse to settle for mere existence.

There’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior” (Philippians 3:20, MSG).

Again, our weary world waits. Pangs of longing thrum deep within the heart of the earth. Advent then, advent now.

Here in this homesick, rain-soaked place, I live, I love, I wait.

Balls & Beds

Catching my eye as I passed our Tree of Gratitude, a leaf etched with B A L L S. Balls. I giggle and ask the youngest about that one.

By far the most prolific appreciator of our Tree, she responds, “You know, play balls, soccer balls, footballs.”

Expressing thankfulnesses in construction paper leaves. So easy and neat and clean and Pinterest worthy.

But as I sit down to fill out my own leaves, uncertainty sinks in.

Am I truly grateful? If gratitude is more than a feeling, then something more is required.

Gratitude and ungratefulness coexisting. Oil and water, seemingly at odds, sloshing about and filling in the cracks.

What am I thankful for? Intrinsically, everything. Breath inhaled, life, warmth. Family, love, encircling. Shelter, home, sustenance. My daily bread. Jesus, grace, mercy. Breath exhaled, rest.

What am I not thankful for? Conversely, everything else. Am I less grateful when I cannot feel joy? When I crave something more? Does my uncertainty negate all I have been given?

 

The hubs talked to the Christmas family we’re sponsoring with his work team. He told me the dad asked him if they were going to be able to get a bed. A bed. These parents have been sleeping on their apartment floor in sleeping bags. Their children, on an old couch.

And suddenly, even little things seem too much. My gratitude for a working dishwasher, a hot cup of coffee, seem trivial. I don’t deserve any of it.

We love to argue just how deserving we are. We worked hard for the things we have. We are. We have. We deserve each and every one. Gold stars awarded, pats on the back given. Leaves on our Tree of Gratitude.

 

Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?”

Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. We need to be energetically at work for the One who sent me here, working while the sun shines. When night falls, the workday is over. For as long as I am in the world, there is plenty of light. I am the world’s Light.” John 9:1-5

While the sun shines, the leaves may wither, but the One who sent me is at work.

And so instead of looking within for thankfulness, I look gratefully to what God can do through me.

There is no reason my neighbors should sleep on the floor, and if you agree, I humbly ask for your help. Partner with us on giving this family some beds. A place to rest their weary heads and hold their bodies up off the floor.

We’ve set up a GoFundMe if you’d like to donate.

And in doing so, may they feel the love and light of the One who sends us.

#PrayforParis

When tragedies strike and fear seeks control of our hearts, I’m always impressed by the come-togetherness of human beings.

We don’t know when we could leave for school, for the movies, for a concert never to return. But have we ever? Isn’t the very real nature of the human experience its unpredictability? We never know which day, which breath will be our last. And so we bow to this fragile dance, each step carefully orchestrated to prolong the curtain’s fall.

But some days, days like yesterday, the weight of the world just feels so heavy. A lead blanket, crushing spirit, seeping darkness into my bones. Is there ever a rationality for preventable death? 128 souls in Paris, nobodies in the grand scheme of things until one is your everything.

And these tragedies always point to the others, thousands of small lives snuffed out by hunger and disease every day. Such fleetingly sad moments, a tear shed here and there. We feel, we just feel so much.

“Sympathy’s easy. You have sympathy for starving children swatting at flies on the late-night commercials. Sympathy is easy because it comes from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realizing you could be them, and that all that separates you is luck.” Dennis Lehane

Hashtags and profile pictures, really what more can we do? Our last resorts of helplessness. “I don’t pray, but I’m sending good thoughts.” Good thoughts to warm only the heart of the thinker.

Belonging to Jesus comes with a responsibility to do more.

If you find any comfort from being in the Anointed, if His love brings you some encouragement, if you experience true companionship with the Spirit, if His tenderness and mercy fill your heart; then, brothers and sisters, here is one thing that would complete my joy—come together as one in mind and spirit and purpose, sharing in the same love. Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first. Philippians 2:1-4

Terror is real, but Jesus is greater. And so as we come together, may we take it one step further. Lift your head from your screen and look into the eyes of your brother. Because we’re the lucky ones, we must do battle, on our knees in prayer and in our hearts. May comfort and complacency never win.

And in this darkness, we can all bring something, do something. Not necessarily for all, but maybe just for one, each act a small star brightening the night, until the One who does battle on our behalf returns.

We say, Amen! Come, Lord Jesus.

Thankful for the Fleas

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Disclaimer: After reading this you might never want to come over. I hope that’s not the case, but guests, you have been warned.

As someone who has extremely sensitive skin and is randomly allergic to everything, it’s not rare for me to have hives or some other general malaise as a result of something I ate or a new beauty product I’ve tried. (By now, I should just know better.)

So, when I woke up with a few itchy bumps, I think, no big deal. A few more show up, and I’m wondering about that new body wash. (At this point, I should tell you that I am also a recovering hypochondriac (well, mostly recovered).) So, perfectly in-character, my next reaction is to jump to the worst possible conclusion. We MUST have either bed bugs (the horror) or fleas (egads, no)!

So, instead of waiting a few days, nixing the body wash, and continuing with my day like a normal human, what happens? Full scale eradication. Mind you, we have still not spotted a single bed bug or flea, (but methinks they are really, REALLY good at the whole undercover thing). Entire house on lockdown. Laundry hot washed and sealed. Every surface vacuumed. Dog medicated, bathed, and thoroughly combed. Google, my new best friend/worst enemy, assures me that the (still sight unseen) pestilence are busy working their way into the baseboards where they are multiplying at a rate that would make bunnies blush.

Y’all. The struggle is real.

And in the midst of comparing my little itchy bumps to the horrifically graphic images on the inter webs, I remember the story of Corrie Ten Boom, her sister Betsie, and the fleas. In her book, The Hiding Place, Corrie recounts their family’s role in hiding Jews during WWII and their subsequent imprisonment in a Nazi Concentration Camp. Their barracks, overrun by fleas was a constant source of aggravation, but Betsie urges Corrie to remember the instructions in 1 Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus” (5:16-18).

Corrie, at first, refuses to be thankful for fleas. But later, it becomes apparent that the guards never enter their barracks because of the fleas. This allows the sisters unprecedented freedom in holding church services and sharing the gospel with over 400 other inmates.

So as we begin this month of thankfulness, the girls and I spent our morning meeting by reading the excerpt from The Hiding Place. I urged the girls to think of the fleas in their own lives: Where have you faced frustration or pain; where did you struggle? How did God use that in the end? 

In my life, real or simply perceived, I must thank God for the fleas, for they draw me closer to Him. And as we created our Tree of Gratitude, the leaf containing one word, FLEAS, was placed at the top.

Stage Left

You don’t define me,

Confine me,

Fold up my hopes

And press my dreams

So they fit into your box.

Neat lines aren’t my song.

Each judgment a nail

Sealing my coffin,

And my mouth,

You hope.

But I was made for more,

Much more.

more hoping

more dreaming

more doing

As I open my sails

and cast for the

Great Unknown,

The adventure of life abundant,

Wind at my back,

Joy filling my lungs,

I laugh freely

That you ever thought

I was meant a bit part,

Stage left,

As you stole the show.

Her

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The weight of her in my arms,

unchanged by time.

The smell of her

sweet, musky joy so pure.

Traces of the baby she was play across a woman’s face.

The full, ebullient round of my love,

the swell of heart,

it’s almost too much to bear.

Yet we endure

in this dance,

She as my girl

and I as her mama,

holding fast to her hand.

While I Wait, I Work

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In a reiteration of historian Thomas Fuller, “The darkest hour always comes before the dawn.”

Once Jesus gave up His spirit, creation’s heart broke with a great earthquake, the dead emerged from their tombs, and the Holy of Holies became visible from behind a torn curtain. “This man truly was the Son of God!” proclaimed those present at the crucifixion. And then, they held their collective breath and waited, remembering what He had said. “For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.” {Matthew 12:40 NLT}

Three days, three nights. And once again in applying my humanity to Jesus Christ, I had simply assumed that He waited as well. As the world wept, Jesus rested with the Father, shaking His head at ‘ye of little faith, hanging out just as Jonah did before God sent Him forth again. A kind of backstage lounge or green room to the heavenly realm. Since we as Christians believe that our spirits are not connected to our earthly bodies after death, why would Christ as the Son of Man be any different?

In short, He wasn’t. In death, just as in life, Jesus was busy. Busy speaking His message of redemption, busy drawing others to Himself. But this time, He wasn’t preaching to the living, but the dead. 1 Peter 4:6 states, “The Good News was preached to those who are now dead—so although they were destined to die like all people, they now live forever with God in the Spirit.” {NLT} 1 Peter 3:18-20 goes on:

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey. {ESV}

Then, Ephesians 4:8 (drawing from Psalm 68) speaks of Christ’s ascension to heaven with those He redeemed in death! “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” {NLT} Not only did Jesus leave us with spiritual gifts when He returned to heaven, but He had companions in those former prisoners, the faithful who died before His time. Christ’s message of salvation cannot be limited by time, space, or even death!

When it seems darkest in my life and I am begging for God to send the sunrise, I must remember the work to be done. While you abide in your Father and His lavish love, clinging to His hope in your despair, remember those that have NO hope without Christ’s message of salvation. For Jesus was bound to the same earthly struggles, pain, temptations, and death we all face; but even after He had died, He worked so others may experience eternal life.

If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself. {2 Timothy 2:11-13 ESV}

And in this, I can persevere, because I know the Son will rise on Sunday morning. So, while I wait, I work in the hope that others may be delivered by the promise that comes at the first light of dawn.