Posted in Living this Life

Mr. Wonderful

I called him Uncle David – but in retrospect, I should have called him Mr. Wonderful.

It was his answer every time you asked him how he was doing – I can still hear his gentle voice tinged with joy, “well, I’m wonderful, darling!”

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And it’s how he made us feel. Just plain wonderful.  So this morning, as I process the news that Mr. Wonderful is now with His Savior, I find myself rejoicing in that beautifully gentle spirit he carried – but I have so many questions…

I didn’t know my Uncle David in his younger years. I didn’t know him when he fought in Vietnam, and I don’t know the horrors he lived through there. Those were memories he didn’t want to re-live, and that’s where it stayed. And I didn’t know him well as I was growing up – he was my Uncle, but I was on the other side of the world and saw him only every few years.

But as life weaves a beautiful tapestry around us so often, it brought my life and his closer, and I was blessed over the past few years to get to spend more time with this amazing man.

Uncle DavidHe called my kids silly names like “McGillicuty”. He made them laugh and brought so much joy to all of us. He poured life and love and goodness out on us in unending measure. And that’s what my heart can’t get over this morning as I sit here grasping for words in the midst of my tears. That impossible joy in the face of a life filled with much sorrow. How does that happen? I know it’s not an accident.

Because we all know the natural course of a human heart. Pain causes us to close up and grow hard. Life hurts, so we grow a shell around our spirits to protect us. Anger begets anger and we so often find ourselves in a vicious cycle of pain. So when you see a man who exudes joy and gentleness in the midst of such hardness, you have to stop and ask “why?” Or maybe the better question is “how ?”

He endured much pain. Marked by a hard a brutal war when he was young. He tragically lost his grandson a few years ago. His own beloved son died suddenly just last year. He suffered physically, carrying effects of Agent Orange in his body as well as many other struggles. When life hit hard and seemed to overwhelm, he would simply hug me and say he loved me. I would ask him how he’s hanging on, and he would say, “how can it help to be angry?”  He knew the best protection of a soul comes in staying open – but how?

He must have known a secret. A life giving, beautiful secret that the rest of us need to remember. How do we best remember Uncle David? By making sure his spirit is carried on. He was a special man – and the greatest tragedy would be to let that special spirit die with him. Because what keeps flooding  my heart and mind is this: the secret he had is available to all of us. And we honor Uncle David best by finding it and preserving it and letting it mark our own hearts.

In light of a hard life, he responded with gentleness and peace. It makes me think of these words, “the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” These words mark how I remember my Uncle David, and I think this is the secret that he would want to pass on to all of us. How did he do it? I see the answer in the next few words… “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:22-25) I believe Uncle David made a choice to let the Spirit of God shape his heart, and though he wasn’t perfect, he kept in step with the Spirit of God. He reflected a different Spirit than the world has to offer, and we were all marked by that.

I can’t quite stop the tears from flowing this morning. I’m thankful my precious Uncle David is no longer living in such pain, however I will desperately miss him and the light he carried. But I also know it’s not completely snuffed out. Because the Spirit of God that lived in him is alive. And there is no darkness it cannot enter and no hardness it cannot touch. And I know the best way we honor the legacy of this amazing man is to let that Spirit change us in the same way.

So here I sit at the foot of the cross. Here I reflect on the words that offer freedom – “if you declare with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9) and this – “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) Oh! and these beautiful words that many know but it takes a lifetime to fully grasp – “For God so loved ___________________ (put your name in here) that He gave His only Son (Jesus), that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16)

The everlasting life is what Uncle David is experiencing right now. The changed life is what we got to experience through him all these years. I find myself sitting here on this rainy fall morning asking my Jesus anew to form and shape this spirit that gets twisted by circumstances into a spirit molded by Him. Knowing that in the midst of the unbearable pain life brings us at times, there is freedom on the other side. Uncle David is seeing it unveiled with his own eyes for the first time, but he tasted and reflected the beauty of it all these years. And I want to reflect more of it today and tomorrow and the next. In honor of Uncle David. In honor of the Savior he loved so very much.

Oh – and Uncle David? Say hi to grandma and grandpa for me!!

Posted in Living this Life

Friend of Silence

I stood there stunned as I looked at my 8 year old with tears streaming down his face. We thought this would be fun – a fun reward for the many days they had spent on the road with us doing work stuff.

We had a couple hours free in the middle of a whirlwind trip recently, so we asked the kids what they wanted to do. The consensus was to find an arcade somewhere and have some fun.

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And we did. We found the biggest, best arcade we could find. Not only was this arcade bigger and better than many we had been to, it was much, much louder. Like walking into a physical wall of noise. We had a lot of fun, yelled over the chaos as the kids engaged in a Rampage battle and my ‘80’s loving husband impressed us all with his Galaga skills. I leaned over and asked Joshua what he wanted to do next – well, I yelled at him “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT?” And he responded by slapping his hands over his ears and bursting into tears.

We quickly found a quiet place to talk. He said “everyone keeps yelling and it’s so loud it hurts!”

I feel your pain, little man. Have you watched the news lately? Or tapped into any form of social media? It seems like everyone has something to say and no-one is listening anymore. So we all just seem to move faster and yell louder…

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Joshua said to me through his tears that day, “can’t you just talk quieter?” So I decided to try. As we went back into the arcade, in the middle of the ear-splitting din, I leaned in and whispered to him. I found that if I whispered right into his ear, he could hear me despite the noise, and I wouldn’t have to yell anymore.

And as a result, I discovered some beautiful things. He could hear me – and it didn’t hurt. My spirit quieted as I whispered through the chaos. And we had to draw close to each other to communicate.

How do you handle the noise? There are definitely days I want to slap my hands over my ears and find a quiet corner to cry in. But by that time, I usually have to make dinner or take a kid to some sports practice, so I kind of shove the feelings in and keep moving.

But what if we just stop? Stop yelling, and try whispering? Draw close to each other so we can hear the whispers from the hearts of those around us? Maybe even hear the whisper of our own hearts? We look for big, mighty things from God, and often get swept away in the wind, earthquake and fire that come before the still small voice of Jehovah. We shout over the wind, try to be the earth shakers, and pray for fire to burn up the evil, but God is not in those things.

“The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 1 Kings 19:11-13

Did you hear that? Elijah wrapped his face in his mantle at the still, small voice of Almighty God. In this world of sound bytes and Instagram likes, might the truest power lie in truth spoken gently from the Maker of our souls?

“I think there is nothing so startling in all the graces of God as His quietness. When men have raged untruths in His Name, when they have used the assumed authority of the Son of God to put to death His real children, when they have with calloused heart twisted the Scriptures into fables and lies… when they, using powers He grants them, claim universal autonomy and independence, He, this great silent God, says nothing! His tolerance and love for His creatures is such that, having spoken in Christ, in conscience, in code of law, He waits for men to leave off their bawling and turn for a moment to listen to His still, small voice of the Spirit.” – Jim Elliot

What a beautiful wonder those words awaken in my heart! What common sense goodness.

Do you find your heart reeling from the din of voices clamoring to be heard? Do you find your soul growing numb from the chaos that swirls around you?

Maybe rather than pushing away or trying to yell louder, we could try whispering back. Draw near, listen closely – not only to the words, but to the hearts, of those around us. Especially those we disagree with. Hear the fear that makes voices rise to a screech. Listen to the pain that causes those we share this planet with to build walls around their hearts. Draw close, and whisper gentle truth. You will find your own heart softening in the process. You may not agree, but you might understand. When you understand, you will learn to love the heart of the person, and maybe in that quiet place, Jesus will be heard.

Maybe we all just need to whisper a little more?

“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence … we need silence to be able to touch souls” -Mother Teresa

 

 

Posted in Living this Life

What if?

There was a time in my life when I could barely see past the darkness.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart…”

Every beautiful thing was covered in a shroud of fear of loss, living in the shadow of “what if?”

“…Test me and know my anxious thoughts…”

It’s sucked the joy, the peace, the life from my bones and left me hollow and trapped in a tomb of fear.

“…See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” Ps 139:23-24

I will never forget the moment my Jesus shone a bright light on it. So many times He comes in with ideas we may already know, but need to hear in a new way. It all started when my amazing husband bought me a devotional one Christmas.

That January, I picked up this little life changing book by Elisabeth Eliot and God started the work of unraveling the web the enemy of our souls had trapped me in. It was a many layered process and is a much longer story than this simple post can contain, but all good stories must start somewhere. This is my “somewhere”.

I recently stumbled across this book, dusty on a bookshelf. As I cracked open the pages and saw the exclamation I had written in the margins, the Lord brought me back to this moment – to so many of the moments He gently walked with me and showed me the way out – step by step.

I don’t know what Goliath you might be facing, my friend. What news has shaken your soul or what unknown lies beyond what you may see, but I find such peace in reminding my own spirit of a great God who is already there and has prepared a way.

So here are the words I read that day. I will leave them here without much commentary. The concept is simple, even obvious… but the truth was transformative for me. I pray it helps release your soul to peace as well.

“We are meddling with God’s business when we let all manner of imaginings loose, predicting disaster, contemplating possibilities instead of following, one day at a time, God’s plain and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely we have neither the light nor the strength for them yet. “As thy days so shall thy strength be” was Moses’ blessing for Asher – in other words, your strength will equal your days. God knows how to apportion each one’s strength according to that day’s need, however great or small. The psalmist understood this when he wrote, “Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure” (Ps. 16:5).

“What tomorrow’s cross I never seek to find. My Father says, ‘Leave that to Me, and keep a quiet mind’. (Anonymous)

Posted in Living this Life

When the monster returns

It has been 10 months.

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10 months since I have felt that cold chill creep over my skin. 10 months since my muscles have felt like Jell-0 and my nerves trembled inside. I thought it was a thing of the past. I had hoped I would never feel these things again.

 

And then 3 days ago I woke up, and there it was. My skin hurt, and I was scared to get out of bed. “Maybe if I just get busy with my life it will disappear,” I thought. So I did – and it just kept getting worse.

4 years ago I was diagnosed with Lymes Disease. God went far ahead of me into this place and prepared amazing doctors and mentors to walk with me through this season. For 3 years, it was a bit of a roller coaster – as anyone who’s had a chronic condition knows. Every time you think you’re improving, it seems there is an “attack” of other symptoms. I’m naturally a pretty hopeful person, but these 3 years definitely had dark moments of discouragement and defeat.

I pursued a pretty aggressive form of treatment, which at times seemed to be working and at other times seemed to just make it worse. I was improving until the week of August 27, 2017. But that week hit me with a vengeance. I remember it so clearly because I was caring for a sick family member, trying to pack up my family of 5 for a trip across the country, and all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry. I remember going to sleep the night of August 30th, wondering how I was going to “survive” this trip.

I woke up on August 31st, and all my symptoms were gone! For a while I lived holding my breath, wondering when it would come back … but eventually I came to believe that I truly had been set free. It felt like I had been released from a prison cell. And beyond the fleeting ache here and there, I haven’t had a recurrence since. I did things over this past year that I had forgotten I could do. I reveled in my new-found physical strength and felt a certain level of euphoria every time I was able to push myself and not collapse for a week afterwards.

I don’t know how many times I said to my husband, “It just feels so good to feel good!”

So you can imagine the state of my heart 3 days ago when I woke up to a rush of old symptoms I thought I had left behind.

Discouragement.elijah-cave

Doubt.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Denial. (I actually told my husband that I didn’t want to do anything to treat it because I didn’t want to acknowledge that it was real)

The good news is, the symptoms aren’t strong, and they come and go, but simply knowing they are there has made me pause and think. I could look at this as a looming monster returning to imprison me – or I could choose to see how much stronger I really am than I was 3 years ago. Sometimes we forget how far we’ve come, and moments like this help us remember.

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While I have had many moments of rejoicing in my new-found strength over this last year, today I bask in it. Today, hope springs up in my soul like an explosion of worship! While I realize this has been a physical journey for me, I look deep in my heart and note the even greater miracles that God has done there.

If you only knew the wretchedness my heart is capable of. The thoughts that have tried to seduce me and overwhelm me. The paths I have flirted with – where I might have ended up had I taken that step.

If you only knew the fear that has consumed me and attempted to paralyze me. The darkness that tried to wrap itself around my soul like a cancer and imprison me in this lonely place and anxiety, worry, and doubt. If you only knew. But I do – and my God does.

I sit here with tears streaming down my face and hands lifted to the sky because this is who I was or could have been. But for Jesus!

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My Jesus –  He’s the only one who can set this soul free. He’s the only One who can scream at the darkness to leave this helpless daughter of His alone. My body is overcoming Lymes Disease and is stronger than it has been in years – but this heart of mine is overcoming so much more! And this brush with an old sickness has helped me look back and remember all that my Jesus has carried me through.

There is a reason God told the Israelites to set up altars of remembrance as they walked through the desert – piles of stone to remind them of all God had done in their lives. Because we are a forgetful people. The struggle of today can so consume us that we forget the victory of yesterday!

My friend, don’t forget! Remember – and Rejoice! And when that same old struggle returns, don’t let discouragement or doubt overtake you. Remember how He has helped you in this place. And take one more step forward, because He will help you again. Old struggles return sometimes – this is not failure, but rather a reminder of past victories and an opportunity to grow even stronger.

So remember with me! All the battles He has fought for us! All the ways He sets our souls free.

He is not a God “up there”, but a God who came down here. He lived in the muck and mire of this earth, the beautiful days and the crushing darkness.  And He let Himself be violently killed – for me, for you. This is how much you matter to Him. All the intimate little details of your life and soul – the things you don’t let anyone see. It matters so much to Him that He sacrificed everything for you.

I don’t know what your day holds. I don’t know if you’re living in victory or defeat right now. Maybe an old temptation is whispering in your ear or if you just feel like you’re wandering in circles some days. Or maybe you don’t feel like you have anything to celebrate right now … this might be exactly where you need to be to start. Let this be your battle cry and plant your altar firmly in this place!

Do not gloat over me, my enemy!  Though I have fallen, I will rise.
Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light!” Micah 7:8

I know that often my mind wants all the answers before I start. I have spent many hours searching for the how of things, trying to wrap my mind around the evidences and proofs. And while they are all helpful, none of them have the power to save.

The words of a certain blind man (John 9:25) remind me  “There is one thing I do know – I once was blind, but now I see!”

Sing these truths with Paul – “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And with Isaiah, look around you and behold – “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:19)

Remember – and Rejoice!

Posted in Living this Life

With Arms Wide Open

I had a moment of worship the other day. I was hanging upside down, hurtling towards the earth at unknown miles per hour … it snuck up on me and caught me unawares.

I like adrenaline. I love adventure. This picture hangs in my dining room, announcing it to the world.

I also love the idea of control. It makes me feel safe, like life can be boxed up into neat little compartments and decorated in the farmhouse style of Joanna Gaines. I like to know what to expect, so I can be prepared. I also have 3 kids. Clearly, this is not rational.

These two sides of my personality often act like the clashing weather fronts that lead to the many tornadoes warnings we experience every spring. I find myself trying to embrace adventure while hanging on to the illusion of control.

And so I ride roller coasters.

This was the perfect day for riding roller coasters. The sun was shining, the air was cool, and everyone was everywhere else! So we rode them all, my fearless kids and me. Wildfire, Powder Keg, Outlaw Run, and then the amazing new Time Traveler (the fastest, steepest, tallest spinning coaster in the world) … we laughed and might have gotten a bit dizzy. I realized a little too late that strawberry/chocolate crepes and spinning rides don’t go well together. But I carried on – a little nausea wasn’t about to slow me dowbarn swingn that day.

I followed my kids onto the Giant Barn Swing. This is a typical pendulum ride that reaches a height of 7 stories at it’s zenith, where you find yourself hanging almost upside down, before the rush to the bottom. I love the sensation. As we reached the height of the ride, about to fly towards the earth, I found myself tightly gripping the lap-bar that was holding me in my seat. My one connection to safety. But the obvious truth is that this exercise in futility has no power to keep me safe. As hard as I grip, there is nothing I really can do at that point but ride the ride. Stifling a sheepish grin, I let go and threw my hands in the air.

And that’s when the moment of worship hit. Overwhelmed by the euphoric freedom that comes from releasing control, I flew through the air and poured out my heart to Jesus.  Because I realized, in the midst of this messy life that can sometimes feel so out of control, Jesus is offering such refuge and peace. And here I cling to my own illusion of control – while He is asking me to let go and trust.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in Him, for He shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between His shoulders.” Dt. 33:12

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Ps 46:1

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Dt. 33:27

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.  Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.  Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?  Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:22-26

“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  The Lord is with me; He is my helper.” Psalm 118:6-7

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

So, that’s a lot of verses – and there are so many more. Woven throughout all of Scripture is the beautiful song that we can let go – because He has us!

Here are the disconcerting and mind blowing facts. As terrifying as a roller coaster can seem, as much as we hope those restraints will hold, standing our ground on planet earth is a whole other ride!

Did you know that at this moment, we are hurtling around the sun at 67,000 mph?earth

That means in the second it takes you to read this sentence, you will have traveled 18.5 miles without even knowing it! And in the year it takes us to travel around the sun, we will have traversed 585.6 million miles of space. My mind cannot wrap itself around these numbers – because it’s all happening while I’m washing dishes and folding laundry! I’m not working for it, nor am I strapped down hoping our momentum doesn’t throw me into my neighbor’s living room! (Although I am tempted to get seatbelts installed in my couch at this point)

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THIS IS THE GREAT GOD WE SERVE! If He is able to create all this, manage all this, and hold us gently nestled in that safe place between His shoulders, why do we grasp at control so desperately!? The comfort doesn’t come in knowing how little control I actually have, it comes in these simple words, Be Still and know that I am God”            Ps 46:10.

Because He is God, Because He is in control, Because of His promises, Because He loves me, Because this great Creator of the Cosmos has engraved my name on the palm of His hand, I CAN BE STILL.

Let go! Throw your hands in the air with me as we hurtle around the sun. Let the rush of the wind set your heart free to worship! He’s got us – let us rest in this wonder!

Posted in Living this Life

I don’t understand…

He just couldn’t understand why. This boy with curly blonde hair and big blue eyes, looking at me so quizzically. And I’m glad he couldn’t.

This 7 year old boy who loves Jesus with all his heart and has no limitations to his expectations of who Jesus is and what He can do.

It was just a normal morning. We were doing our regular reading routine this morning, the 3 kids and me. All of us a little sleepy and groggy, trying to wake up enough to start our day.

The reading we came to in our “Mini and Maxi devotions” was Luke 5. Peter and his friends had been fishing all night, without catching a thing. They come in to shore, and Jesus ends up using their boat as a makeshift pulpit. Then comes the miracle of a boatload of fish when Peter least expects it, followed by Peter’s well known response: “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

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Maybe I’ve read this story too many times. Maybe I just know too well that feeling of being soiled and not wanting to be too close to Jesus in my shame. But as I read these words, I didn’t expect to see my Joshua’s face contort in utter confusion.  “I don’t understand”, he said. So I tried to explain.

I asked him if he’s ever felt like he’s not good enough to be near Jesus. If he’d ever messed up so much that he felt too ashamed to come close to Jesus. As I talked, my overly expressive boy’s face changed from confusion to shock and horror. All he could say was, “but WHY?! Why wouldn’t you want to be with Jesus?!”

I’ve heard numerous sermons and explanations of that moment when Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to “such as these”. And here in front of my bleary morning eyes was this verse being lived out in front of me. Because on one hand, I know that when we compare ourselves to the great glory of God, we find ourselves, like Job, saying “My ears had heard of youbut now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myselfand repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42)  And I believe this is what is happening in Peter’s heart in this moment.

But in comes crashing the beautiful paradox. Because, my friend! This also is true. And I believe this may be what was happening in Jesus’ heart in this moment.  That beyond the reality of who we are compared to Him, He longs for us to come close and just be with Him.

In our filth.

In our emptiness.

In our shame.

I hear the words of Romans 8 ring loud in my heart – “ For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And I see Him stooped low, casting off His crown for a manger, so that I can draw close to Him.

I see Him in agony on a cross, so that I can be made clean.

I see Him in all His glory beside God the Father interceding still on our behalf! (Romans 8:34)

And yet how many times have I hidden from Him because of my sin? How many times has my heart reeled with words like Peter’s “Go away from me – I am a sinner?”

As I hear His  words still ringing in the air, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (Mt 11:29) Did you hear that?!

AND YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL!

Oh how I long to be nestled in.

To come to Jesus with a heart as simple and clear as my Joshua’s – with no worry or doubt, just trust.

So come! Let’s not spend another day pushing back the One who gave it all to be close to you. His Promises are sure, His Arms are secure, His Words are true.

It’s time to start really believing them.

Jesus