Monday, July 11, 2022

Between Faith and Sight

My friend was in that space between here and there.
This world had become shadowy and thin, and the next life was taking on form and substance.
I've seen it many times.
His eyes flickered open and shut.  
His chin raised, and a smile swept his face to acknowledge my presence 
when I said, "Hello."
With a bit of a trembling heart, I asked him, "Has Jesus been near these days?"
He nodded.
"What has he been saying to you?"
"He said that I'm forgiven and that he loves me."  
He paused, gathered another breath and then, "...and that he'll meet me forever and ever."
These words came with
struggle but also with great certainty, gentleness and comfort 
held in them.
"Anything else?" I asked.
Again he nodded.
"He said...he's going to make me more like myself."
Then he closed his eyes, lowered his head and slept.
AND the next day, he went home.






Friday, June 24, 2022

No Magic Beans

Recent days of blue sky carried me back to memories of a friend.
They are woven around warm breezes across outfield grass, 
the sound of a baseball thudding into a mitt or pinging off an aluminum bat.
Then, other thoughts came on the heals of those memories, 
but they were more disheartening.

I knew that his Dad was gone.
I don't remember if he had died or just left the house one day and never came back.
His Mom was loving, but rarely showed her face outside the house.
There was a tension in the rest of the family dynamic. 
Pain lurked there.  
Just under the surface.  
Like something looking for an escape route or waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
I would catch him staring to the ground or at the workspace before him at school.  
Motionless.  
Absent.
I would nudge him and say, "Hey!  Where'd you go?"
He would shrug and smile, but offer nothing.
I occasionally wondered about what life was like for him when none of the rest of us were around,
and he was alone at home.  
I was pretty sure there was an escalation of that tension that we saw.
That the shadow of it all grew into something that at times was overwhelming.
I didn't have a clue how to help unpack any of that.
When you're a kid, getting a handle on your own life is challenging enough. 
You're pretty sure that every family has their own junk, but acknowledging that something is "dysfunctional" is a whole different thing.
I don't know that I had ever heard that word until I was in my late 20's.
At one point, for many reasons, our paths separated and never completely came together again.
We pursued different things.  
There was college.  
Then there was marriage and family.
Vocation has taken me out of state since then, even out of country, a lot.
And then we re-connected just a short time ago, sort of...
But the distance and time between us has been too great to navigate.
I feel like those hurts that I sensed in the "way back when" have calcified.
Now there is a very real, very tangible physical wound in him, that I can do nothing about.
It bothers me that I didn't ask more questions then.  That I didn't try harder to figure it out.
But, I also know, in most respects the whole of it is beyond me.
Beyond my wisdom, my strength...my ability to heal.
The weight of that truth alongside the memories, is crushing.

When I think on the many faces of people I have met, 
those who I've been fortunate enough to call friend or even family,
and those who have just been acquaintances,
through these six decades of life...
I believe that we all have at least one thing in common.                                                                       

                          Peace is what we seek. 

Even when we don't know it; 
             don't say it out loud, 
                       it's the echo of our hearts, in some way...nearly every day.

I saw a young mother navigating her way down an aisle in Walmart; three kids in the grocery cart, negotiating throughout the store as to what items will end up in the cart.  

A man at the highway intersection looking for spare change, 
with a sign in his hands, that just said, "Smile!" 
His face mirroring his admonition.

I hear so many stories of...
Hope reborn, and also, hope dashed.

Someone I know, is today rolling their shoulder away from their present situation, 
eyes on a greener pasture somewhere, anywhere.  
Another job.
Another city.
Another neighborhood.
Another school.
Another spouse.
                              Searching for peace.

With these thoughts spilling across my brain like puzzle pieces poured onto a table,
          I have come to a conclusion.  
There are no "magic beans" to get us what we really want.
Definitely they won't get us what we really need.
And I wish like everything, we could stop approaching life this way.
It's fruitless, and dark.
After these six decades of listening and observing,
                                   mourning with those who mourn,
I want to say that our peace cannot be found in "another anything."
At least not in a continual way, a lasting way.
We have discovered how to soothe its absence by medications; doctor prescribed or self-prescribed.
Those solutions may seem to help for a little while, but they are no cure.

As my days/weeks/months/years tick by I become more and more certain that         
                               the peace we seek comes in a person. 
Honestly, I hear the arguments against.  
But I have to say they mostly come from mistaking an institution for His person.
Meeting the Christ, is unfortunately not the same as meeting a Christian.
Or attending a church. 
It could be, and probably should be, but often times it just isn't.
He is wholly unlike our caricatures of him.  
He will not be boxed by anything we have heard about him.
He knows the misconceptions we have had.  Even mine.
He knew that we would doubt.
He knew the arguments that we would make; those of us who are searching.
That's why he said, his offering to us was different than what we would find apart from him.
It wouldn't make sense to any of us who were
                   seeking peace through the given processes around us;
                                                             through the equations we tabulated on our own,
                                                                              through our own devices.

That's why we struggle to find...PEACE.
We look for it in the emptiness of things.  
Or from others, whose well does not go deep enough
                                 to satisfy their own thirst, let alone ours.
And for that reason,
                  Wise men (and women) will still seek HIM.
                        AND when they do, without distracted intent
                               His promise is that he will be found, and with him, 

all that our heart is desperate for.

               







Monday, March 7, 2022

A Lesson For The Day

On the heels of the pandemic, comes war. 
Just thinking on that makes me wince.
We look forward to the opening up of our connections with each other again, 
and are drawn back to our knees as families in another part of the world are separated.
...Children and their nurturers this way and soldiers the other direction.

Perhaps though, this is the lesson.

Whenever we celebrate new birth, 
we should remember that someone else will be leaving us.
Whenever we celebrate freedom, 
we should remember someone else is struggling for their release.
It doesn't mean that we should be somber in our celebration, 
only that we should value it more than we do.
It's a deeper joy in the family that we are learning to appreciate today, 
reminding us that we are not islands unto ourselves, 
but a global family, in need of supporting each other...always.


Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Legacy


Her's was the only face I recognized when I sat down at the pew.
She sat to the side of the podium.
Quiet. 
Smiling, even some laughter.
Often, tears in her eyes but with awareness of what must take place.
Of, who could share, maybe even, who should share...their heart; their story.
About her beloved husband.
Understanding that someone needed to guide.
And even in her own grief, they would celebrate and remember his life with joy.


She would be certain of that.

I've been to many, many gatherings like this but at the same time, not like this.
Peace and authenticity ruled the room like it was a covenantal agreement.
I didn't wish for people to think that I was texting on my phone during the service but the words of the day were so rich, I couldn't help but write a handful of them down.  
Here they are.

"I'm 16 years sober...I know that in those years before sobriety, I hurt my kids."
He tugged at his beard a bit, gathered his thoughts and then remarked on how the man in the casket had walked with him and prayed with him through many moments of challenge.

Several shared about dreams.  Dreams that led to the front door of the church or the one who had passed and his loving wife...Dreams that led them to the grace of God.

A young man said, "I know that I'm going to need to spend more time weeping, because it's right, because it's good...Remember, Jesus wept, even though he knew he was going to bring Lazarus back."

Another said, while talking about the deceased's love of family, food and fireworks, "It just seemed like life was complete when we were all together."

Another, visibly shaken in his spirit while he spoke, but committed to being honest, transparent in his appreciation said, "Life is hard without a father, so if you find one, a good one...you hold onto him."

I believe it was the same voice that said, "I was like an abused animal when I came to them...but they took me in."

Another voice, of another cultural heritage shared the common phrase of direction from this man's heart, "Well, let's pray about it..." 

And the final word that I heard, not because it was the last spoken, but because it was a blanket over the entire time was this, "I did not know how to receive the love of God until I met him.  He showed the love of God and how to share it with other people..."

And I thought to myself...Oh, how I wish my church family could know this also, and that this would be the benediction to every service I ever attend, and even for my own.






Saturday, October 30, 2021

When Spring Comes Again

It was never supposed to be about the buildings.
The heroes on the platform.
The music.
The voices.
The instruments.
The emotion.
The pride, about all of it.
We grew that.  We cultivated it, and admired it. 
Then a frost came, and let's be honest about some things...
Just as we were told, it came upon all of us.
...And when we needed most to share and feed each other out of the overflow of our hearts,
   instead we became cannibals and fed upon one-another.
...The loudest voices were ones that called us towards un-love...towards separation.
...They said, "See! This is the end of times and we must prepare by drawing lines."
...They forgot that we were told He would pour out His Spirit like never before, and instead of the focus
being on the frost, our focus would be on the harvest.
This is not the end, but it could be.
It could be the end to some things that needed to pass.
It's time for our selfishness to die. 
It's time for our fears to be released.
Time for our comfort-addictive meetings to be slain.
Our hope to be refined.
Our love for Him and for all in his image to be made honest.
Beloved Everyone.
             I wonder, can we now be sanctified...in love...the way He showed us.

We're not as certain of the spring as we used to be.
But it will come, it's been promised.
Yet, maybe it will look different.
Things that used to be more prominent may never bud again.
Things that used to be ground-cover may be the better crop, and provide the nourishment we need.
Our heroes may not stand as tall.
Maybe they shouldn't.
(Humility makes us all seem more or less the same height.)
Our reach may not seem as high, 
             but maybe it can be broader, because there are more hands extended.

I'm ready.
I'm trusting.
I'm believing.
He can heal.
He can plant something new in us,
      and he can grow it all the way to fruit...if we let it happen.









Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Show Me Beautiful

Show me beautiful.
Find something good.
Peel back the cover of what has it hidden beneath, and hold it in your hands.
Let it shine.
Let it speak without words.
Raise it to the sky. (Like in The Lion King)
Give thanks for this beauty.
Dance around it.  Or lift your voice in song and celebrate it.
Whatever is lovely, whatever is pure, whatever is noble, find it and rest your thoughts upon it.
I know that it's there. 
So do you...really.
He made so much of it, there is truly no scarcity.
Unfortunately, nothing seems to connect our thoughts with another person like complaint and criticism.
Reject that process.  
Turn your heel against it and walk away.
Instead...
Show me beautiful.
Find something good.
Unearth it.
Expose it.
Reveal it.
Revel in it.
Acknowledge the presence and perseverance of all that deserves praise and joy.
This vessel, this person, who has shown us the possible amidst the mundane.
They are worthy.
They are a trumpet of peace and hope among so many, thorny and bleak days.
Lifting our eyes.
Pushing our shoulders back, and our chin up.
Elevating even our minds.
Be. Just. Like. That.
Take "beautiful" by the right hand and join another that is lost with your left.
Make it a movement. 
Make it your cry.
Make it your anthem.
This is our season.  
This is our lifetime.
This is our chance.
We get no other.
So, finally...
Show me beautiful.
Find something good.
Be the beginning, the middle and carry it to the end.
Choose.
Now.
Today.
Do...not...wait.
Someone else needs this more than you do.


Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Still In The Making

In your eyes...
An old man,  young man,  story of a child
A memory, a mystery, and a dream that may be.
On a path, on the road, climbing on a tree.
Weathered, wanting, reaching to be free
Oh how I wish my eyes were open
                                 to all that yours can see.


Won't You send a spark, send a flame, send me fire
Burning through, breaking through the shadow and the mire
Raising up, rising up 'til filthy rags, made new
and I have disappeared, deep inside... the refining fire....of You



Your thoughts...
Not like mine; holding onto smoke
Looking at the past, praying for that day
Unfolding like a letter, wondering what to say
Stumbling in fetters; my feet made of clay
But yours, from the heavens to the sidewalk
                                      * Emily's feathers in the fray                      

Your heart... 
A shield from darkness; shelter from the cold
Even then, even when, all the walls are shaking
Holds it all,  holding mine even while it's breaking
Not alone... in the dark, forgotten son forsaken...but
A fortress, and a tower, the place I run
                                                to life, still in the making

Won't You send a spark, send a flame, send me fire
Burning through, breaking through the shadow and the mire
Raising up, rising up 'til filthy rags, made new
and I have disappeared, deep inside... the refining fire....of You

* "Hope is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul - 
And sings the tunes without the words - 
And never stops - at all." - Emily Dickinson