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!”

Uncle David 3

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

King of the road

I remember that old Land Rover so vividly. And when I remember that Land Rover, I can almost feel the red dirt in my hair, coating even the inside of my mouth.

Those were the days it took us anywhere from 18 hours to 2 days to drive a mere 300 miles.

This is why.

I have another memory that flooded my mind today. We were on one of these epic journeys from Liberia to neighboring Cote D’Ivoire to visit my siblings in boarding school. Traveling with other families, we decided to mix it up and switch up who was in the various vehicles. I have a very distinct emotional response that comes up in me when I remember that part of the trip – because I didn’t feel safe.

You see, my daddy was the king of these roads. That’s him in the picture -with the cool sunglasses on. The mud was intense, the bridges were scary and you never knew what to expect when you’d round a corner. But I knew if my daddy was behind the wheel he would master it. I felt safe.

On this particular occasion, though, I didn’t know if the man driving the vehicle I was in could master the roads like my daddy could. And so I was nervous. On guard. Not secure – not until I was back in that old Land Rover with my dad behind the wheel.

I’ve been thinking alot about the faith of a child these days. I think we need to return to some of these places. Today it’s about the safety we feel in the arms of a Father we can trust.

Some of us didn’t have that in our earthly father. Which is why it is even more important to rest in the promises of our Heavenly Father. Some have had to live their lives on guard, feeling that our only safety comes when we are in control. “Master of our destiny” and all that. But the day always comes – for some sooner rather than later – when we discover the chilling truth that we are not enough in our own strength. We can’t control all the forces of the universe – or even try to anymore.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” He says gently (Matthew 19:14) Let us return to that childlike faith who knows our Daddy is the King of the road. And whatever is coming around that bend, He knows.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from Him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; He is my mighty rock, my refuge.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge…

One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: “Power belongs to you, God, and with you, Lord, is unfailing love” (Psalm 62)

Power married to love. Is there any safer place to be? The God of the Universe who holds all authority in a single breath – LOVES YOU! What safer refuge can we find in this careening world?

Come – rest with me. ““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)

Posted in Living this Life

Through the wardrobe

I just wanted to pretend that it hadn’t happened. It was just one of those days you want to forget. You know – wake up to a brand new day and forget all the yesterday that had gone before?

It’s not that anything significantly bad happened. I just couldn’t keep it at bay anymore. All the emotions that had been piling up – all the cumulative news of loss on top of the personal pains we all carry. It just got to be more than I could tamp down anymore. The frustration, the confusion – all the unnamed emotions that you manage to ignore most of the time came bubbling unbidden to the surface. We’ve all had these days that just feel engulfed in sadness – and if you’re anything like me, you can’t wait for the day to end so you can shake it off and start over tomorrow. Yeah – it was one of those days.

The next morning came – the birds were singing and the sun was shining and I was glad. I sat down with my coffee, my Bible, and my journal – thankful to start a new day.

Free of all that gloom. Until I felt that nudge on my heart – that gentle voice of His Spirit telling me He wasn’t done with yesterday. I had more to do.

It was like He was asking me to take another look. Don’t just shove it down again and try to distract yourself with the newest brightest thing to come your way. Don’t pretend those feelings aren’t there and will just go away if you ignore them. Stop. Look. Take it in for a minute.

So I sat there in the quiet of the morning. That precious silence that doesn’t last long. Me, my coffee, and Jesus. I looked back and let it back in – all those dark things I wanted to shake off. And then this happened – and it has made all the difference.

I felt Him directing me to shift my eyes over – and I caught my breath. He called me to behold HIM. To hold the darkness up in the light of HIS glory, His wonder, His majesty. And right there, in the dawn of the new day, I knew He was there with me. And the more I saw of Him, the more that big wall of pain shrunk as His beauty engulfed it. The more I tasted of His realness, the more I wanted of it. ““Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him” Psalm 34:8

So as the hours turn into days, I continue down this familiar road that I often find myself drifting from. I allow myself to look along the light of His beauty all around me – not just seeing the beauty, but seeing HIM in the beauty. But what does that even look like?

“What, then, is the God I worship?.. You, my God,, are supreme, utmost in goodness, mightiest and all-powerful, most merciful and most just. You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us, the most beautiful and yet the most strong, ever enduring and yet we cannot comprehend you. You are unchangeable and yet you change all things. You are never new, never old, and yet all things have new life from you. You are the unseen power that brings decline upon the proud. You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need. You support, you fill, and you protect all things. You create them, nourish them, and bring them to perfection. You seek to make them your own, though you lack for nothing. You love your creatures, but with a gentle love. You treasure them, but without apprehension… You can be angry and yet serene. Your works are varied, but your purpose is one and the same. You welcome all who come to you, though you never lost them. You are never in need yet are glad to gain, never covetous yet you exact a return for your gifts… You release us from our debts, but you lose nothing thereby. You are my God, my Life, my Holy Delight, but is this enough to say of you? – St. Augustine

This chasing after His glory… it never gets boring and never ends. Like the back wall of that wardrobe leading to Narnia – we can live in the mundane of the world we have come to expect – or we can reach through that wardrobe wall to the wonder of the God who made it all!

I hear the embattled Apostle Paul whisper in my ear, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” – 2 Corinthians 4:17

and David declaring, “Both  high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; You give them drink from Your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light Ps 35:7-10

Come along with me through the wardrobe – I’m going to be putting my discoveries right here for the next month – why not join on in? Let His glory engulf your sorrows, your confusion, your raw emotions and just breathe in His goodness that is all around.

“In such holy wonders, baptize our imaginations, that we might ever be a people shaped by awe at your eternal power, and a people moved to worship by revelations of your divine nature. Awaken our hearts now to beat in rhythm to the dance of your creation. Tune our ears to hear the songs of stars in their trillion-fold choruses, bearing witness to your glory, your power.” Douglas McKelvey