Jesus, life

With God as our Father.

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Remember when we were allowed to sing songs like that in school?

My tone-deaf, little elementary school heart would sing every word with gusto.

I thought back to those tender days this morning, curled up on my sofa with the first snow of the season falling, scrolling facebook with one hand and holding a hot cup of coffee (cream, cinnamon and the slightest drizzle of maple syrup) in the other.

Someone posted this:

post 6.jpeg

I smiled.

Hard to do when they are in your face, I thought as I scrolled by, but amen.

Then came this, posted by the same woman:

post 2.jpeg

And I smiled at her second offering of peace and goodwill.

Yes, I thought, it’s not a matter of whether you are a democrat or a republican, it’s not a matter of how you voted, it’s a matter of whether or not you have the love of God in your heart. People in each camp do, people in each camp don’t.

And then my heart grew heavy.

“Nope. None of that,” her own daughter wrote. “Racist, misogynist or xenophobe, and/or vote for people who are intolerant of diversity? I don’t need you in my life. I especially don’t need you in my children’s lives. I will not normalize intolerance. Hate does not get a seat at the table.”

Wait, where’s your tolerance for diversity of opinion?

Isn’t normalizing intolerance exactly what you’re doing, exactly what you’re modeling for your children?

Does this mean your mom doesn’t get a seat at your table?

It sounds like she hates her mom, who likely didn’t vote as she did.

Yet I know her mom would not deny her a seat at her table.

Which brought my thoughts back to Mother Teresa.

I felt achingly sad:

For the mom whose Shalom and was met with anger.

For me.

For all of us.

I kept scrolling.

Another lovely woman posted this:

post 1.jpeg

Lots of people are getting an “F” these days.

I’m not getting an “F”,” I can hear you huff, “because mine is the morally superior view.”

It’s not about views, it’s about behavior.

It’s about a lack of respect for others; it’s about hate for those you deem morally inferior; it’s about the unforgiveness you harbor in your heart.  There’s no “A” in that.

Resist the urge to tell me about anyone else’s heart (which you cannot possibly know), and exam yours.  Take the log out of your eye so you can see clearly.

Loving your enemy is the high road.  That’s where love travels.

There is no love in prideful claims of moral superiority.

There is no peace in them either.

I would love for there to be peace on earth, and there will be.

But first there will be increasing strife.

In telling His disciples about the end times, Jesus said:

“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.” Mark 13:12

I would love for it to begin with me, but it won’t, it didn’t.

It began with a humble birth in a barn and it ended with a humble death on a cross.

Jesus won our peace – quietly, humbly, respectfully.

As I was pondering all this, my heart grew much heavier.

My daughter called.

She didn’t want me to be alarmed if I checked “Find My Friends” and saw her at the hospital.

She left work and was on her way there because someone close to her attempted suicide this morning, is on life support and is not expected to make it.

I hung up the phone and sobbed.

The ache in my heart became almost unbearable.

There are people who are hurting so much that they attempt to take their own lives and there are people huddled in hospital waiting rooms with broken hearts and there are people who take their morally superior attitudes online and post angry comments.

Shalom.

I recently learned a richer meaning of the word “shalom”.   It’s more than an absence of hostility, it’s a state of wellness.  In A Life Beyond Amazing, Dr. David Jeremiah wrote, “Its basic meaning is ‘to be whole, or safe, or sound.’ Shalom designates a condition in which life can best be lived. It is the concept of integrity; body, soul and spirit are in alignment. In shalom, you have more than the absence of hostility. You have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Oh that we would all have a quality of life that nurtures peace.

Ever since I read that definition, I’ve been praying shalom over everything – the election, Dixie’s belly…

Just now I am praying shalom over the young man on life support: a miraculous recovery, solid ground going forward, wellness of body, soul and spirit.

I’m praying safe and sound over his shattered parents, siblings, children and all who love him. I’m asking for the peace that is beyond our understanding; that seems so impossible at times like these.

I’m praying shalom over my own heavy heart.

I’m praying His kingdom come, His will be done here on this messed up earth as it is in heaven.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard
life

Compassion is as compassion does.

Back in 2005 the hub loaded his table saw, planer and a bunch of other heavy woodworking equipment into a small u-haul.  We were headed to Vero Beach, Florida with a group from the church we attended to help repair a church that had been damaged by a hurricane.  Since the hub had major carpentry skills – and major equipment – he was in charge of that aspect of the trip.

I was in charge of activities for the church’s children.

While we were there we hosted nightly cookouts at a park near the Vero Beach church and invited its members to come, relax, eat and share their hurricane stories.

Because I thought sharing their stories might help.

Turns out it did.  Turns out listening to their stories, hearing what they had been through was the best, most restorative thing we did all week.

It helps to know someone cares.

It was hallowed ground in a Lansing courtroom when Larry Nassar faced his victims.  God bless Judge Aquilina for patiently giving each one of them the opportunity to tell their stories.  God bless her for giving us the opportunity to listen compassionately.

It helps to be heard.

The White House recently invited community members and victims from Parkland, Florida as well as victims from the Columbine and Sandy Hook shootings to a listening session.

God bless our President for giving them a chance to speak and for giving us a chance to hear their hearts.

There are those who hate our President no matter what, who would refuse to give him a nod of credit for an act of compassion, who would refuse him the opportunity to speak and the opportunity to be heard with compassionate ears.

In their minds he is morally “less than” they and therefore he isn’t worthy of their compassion.  They just want to see him destroyed.

Actions speak louder than words.

If we want our country to heal, and it’s looking like the collective “we” don’t, we’ll have to put down our self-righteous hate and pick up an olive branch.  Or at least a hearing aid.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

#branch

 

Standard
life, Light

A House of Worship Where Worshipers Arise

The first thing I noticed when the hub and I walked into church Sunday morning was the joy. The place was abuzz with joyful greetings and  joyful conversations.

We were visiting the church affiliated with the Christian school at which the hub is an administrator.  It was their first Sunday in their newly remodeled worship center so we went in support.

The second thing I noticed was the diversity.

Diversity of color, diversity of socioeconomic status, and I suppose diversity of political opinions.

But I heard absolutely no political talk.

And that was refreshingly welcome.

The words, “I’m blessed” came from the lips of those who have a lot, materially speaking, and from the lips of those who have little.

It reminded me of the wonderful diversity at Saturday morning BSF leaders’ meetings.  Everyone is “blessed” there, too.

How is it that both these diverse groups can meet on Sundays – and brutally early on Saturdays – black, white, comfortable, struggling, liberal, conservative – with such joy?

I pondered and concluded that the joyful gather around a person – a Savior – rather than an ideology.

Or a need.

Studying John 6 these past few weeks, I noticed that some who were following Jesus wanted a political leader, they wanted to make him king. Others wanted free bread and fish.

They wanted Jesus to provide for their political and physical needs while all He wanted to talk about was their spiritual needs. So they started grumbling.

And many quit following.

“You don’t want to leave, too, do you?,” Jesus asked the Twelve.

“Where else would we go?,” responded Peter, “You have the words of life.”

Ah, to spend a couple of hours worshiping with those who want nothing from Jesus except life.

The pastor, who was reared in Africa – the son of medical missionaries – lived and served 22 years of his adult life as a church planter and leadership developer in Uganda.

“Worshipers in Uganda wouldn’t like these screwed down seats,” he said, “they’d want to be able to push them aside and dance.”

He was preaching Psalm 100:

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Worship the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the Lord is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

He pointed out that the Hebrew word for “Know” here is not restricted to mental activity. It is a visceral knowledge that goes deep into the emotions, into the “deepest stomach.”

That’s the kind of knowledge that elicits push-those-chairs-aside-and-dance worship.

The kind of knowing that the Lord is God that causes a diverse people to all feel blessed. To stand together joyfully.

In peace.

Toward the end of the sermon the pastor mentioned his little granddaughter.

What kind of a world will she grow up in?, he wondered.

And worried.

But then he caught himself.

She’ll grow up in a world with God.

God never changes – even as the world changes.

The same God who was with him and his family while they were living and ministering amidst wars in Uganda will be with her, too.

She’ll experience God in ways that he has not because she’ll experience Him in a different culture, a different context.

I liked that thought.

I like the idea that the same God is moving just as faithfully and just as powerfully in every generation, but in new and different ways, come what may.

It’s His story, not ours.

His story.

So why are we demanding, grabbing, protesting, threatening, terrorizing, accusing, slandering, backbiting, worrying, panicking when it’s His story?

May we simply gather in church and, God help us, as a nation around the One who created us all.

P.S. Spent a couple of hours this morning cleaning gum off the bottom of lab tables.  Ew. Don’t stick your gum under your desk/table, youngsters, ‘cuz one day somebody’s momma is gonna’ have to scrape it off.

#elicit

 

 

 

Standard
life

Protecting Hate

The dilemma was this: Wear the long, festive dress that comes to my ankles, the one with the delicate muted gold crochet over a black liner, or the matronly solid black dress that hits just below the knee?

For a wedding reception, the festive gold, right?

It’s almost a no-brainer: The neckline is high and sophisticated – perfectly modest  for a Muslim wedding reception.  It also has a matching shawl to cover my bare arms.

But the shawl is light, crocheted-lacy. My arms show through a little. Is that okay?

And the dress is form-fitting, shows my curves. Is that okay?

I put on the black dress. Boring. Looks like I’m going to a funeral, not a wedding.

Plus, the dress is supposed to be long. And this one has a slit, which gives an occasional peek at my kneecap.

Back to the gold dress. I search out the hub. “Hey hub, does this look okay?”

“It looks great.”

“Do I look immodest?”

“No.”

Do you think this dress is suitable for a Muslim wedding?”

“I have no idea,” he said, and turned his attention back to football.

valentine

The gold dress on another occasion.

I went back upstairs, put the black dress back on and grabbed a black and silver shawl to cover my arms.

Frumpy but safe. Well, except for the black-tights-covered knee cap.

As my daughter and I entered the reception hall, we were greeted by the bride’s mom and sisters.  Her older sister was wearing a gorgeous form-fitting, blush-colored dress. Shoot.

I had never been to a Muslim wedding reception before. There was no ceremony. A Muslim wedding ceremony is more an engagement ceremony and it rarely takes place on the same day as the wedding reception. In this case, the engagement ceremony occurred a full year ago.

My daughter and I were among the first to arrive. The bride – one of my daughter’s best friends –  had previously told her that we would be sitting at one of the tables reserved for family near the stage. But there were no place cards or seating chart, so we just took a seat among the sea of unreserved tables.

The guests trickled in and then the bride and groom made their processional entrance and took their seats at a special table.

A brother, a father, a sister, an uncle and a best friend each made a speech and said a prayer in a language I don’t understand and then translated them into English.

Mid-way through the speeches, the bride’s mother moved my daughter and me to one if the reserved tables.  I’m not sure why, but as I viewed the vast unreserved tables from my new vantage point, I realized that ours had been the only non-covered heads in a sea of hijab wearing women.

The groom is a recent convert to Islam. His non-Islam mother and sisters-in-law were also there with bare heads. We were re-seated with them.

As dinner wound down and the wall that would separate the men and women went up, the bride’s sister-in-law joined our table and the conversation turned to the hateful things people say on Facebook.  She shared an incident that occurred when she was a girl in a Muslim elementary school. A substitute teacher told her class that all Muslims were going to heaven, and all Christians and Jews were going to hell.  She said she raised her hand and said, “My mother and my aunt are Christians and they are very nice people. They aren’t going to hell.”  And although this young woman was misguided about how salvation works, I was struck by her statement.  If her mom and aunt had not been Christians, if she had not personally known any Christians, her little girl mind would have soaked up the teacher’s blanket statement and she would have gone through life thinking that all Muslims are good and all Jews and Christians are bad.  But, since she knew two Christians who were not bad, her little mind rejected the teaching.

She went on to lament that people tell her she’s really nice and that she is their friend to her face and then write hateful things about people of her religion on Facebook.

I offered that when people speak to her one on one, they are looking at her, thinking of her as an individual.  When they are typing on Facebook, they are forgetting her and thinking of a nameless, faceless group.

This morning, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought of an article I read shortly after the 9/11 attacks.  It reported that one of the terrorist pilots trained under the radar at a flight school in Florida. When his former classmates were interviewed, many commented that the terrorist kept to himself and refused their many invitations to go out for a drink or a meal after class. He refused all of their efforts to get to know him.

His refusal to socialize, I’m guessing, was not so much an attempt to protect his identity as it was an attempt to protect his hate.

He didn’t want to get to know his classmates.  He didn’t want to discover that they were decent human beings. He wanted to hate them. He needed his hate to propel him to carry out his part in the evil scheme.

My friend Alma wrote a really good post.  She said there are people hating on France. Saying they don’t deserve our prayers.

Individuals who were shot, killed, injured, traumatized as they enjoyed a Friday night out don’t deserve our prayers?  Wives, mothers, husbands, brothers, children who tragically lost a loved one don’t deserve our prayers? Wives just like yours, mothers just like yours, children just like yours don’t deserve our prayers?  A city, a country numbed and shaken by an attack of evil don’t deserve our prayers? I shake my head. Has Jesus taught us nothing? I read Alma’s post to my daughter and she shakes her head. Really shakes her head.

Lord have mercy.

Standard
faith, Jesus

You Either Have Faith or You Don’t

11214375_10153016161716099_1870591574126476562_n

They were locked in a tight embrace, wailing, when I entered the living room.  I had made a beeline to the powder room as soon as C and I arrived.  What could have happened in such a short time?

“Don’t mind us,” Laura said, “we’re just a couple of blubbering old ladies.”

“Did you have a rough night?”

“No, not a rough night, but a rough day yesterday.”

“What can we do for you, Laura?,” asked C, as she released her embrace.

“Just be with me.”

So we sat with her and talked quietly.  Her husband was working from home – his computer and papers spread out on the dining room table.  He came in to ask her if, based on their conversation the night before, she still wanted him to call hospice.  They had put hospice in place when she left the hospital, but they had not yet needed their services.  Laura nodded yes.  It was time.

She dozed off and on all day.  Whenever she dozed, C and I took her dogs into the backyard to play.  Or we sat with them on the porch.

On the porch I asked C why she and Laura were crying earlier. She said the sight of Laura’s skin – so much more yellow than it was the last time C saw her – brought an instant flood of tears.

All that dozing must have been good for Laura because, by late afternoon, she began to perk up a bit.  Which was good, because her son was on his way home from college for the weekend and some very close friends were coming over to grill “Jeff burgers.”

Before we left, C asked Laura if there was one thing she learned through all of this that she wanted others to know.

“First of all,” she said with her weak, raspy voice, “I have absolutely no doubt about where I am going.”  She scratched her ultrashort, newly-regrown-in hair-covered head and continued, “You either have faith or you don’t. Through this whole thing I always knew that whatever happened, I would be okay.”

She had always been afraid of cancer.

And it was cancer that tested her faith.  Six years ago, alone in her hospital room, after the surgeon delivered the horrible news and all of us had gone home.  Fear overcame her, just for a minute, and then a palpable peace came and pushed it away.  She knew she was going to be okay.  Her faith was proved genuine that day.

“We have it backwards,” she said, “we should be mourning birth and celebrating death.”  She is right.  Though this life holds many beautiful sights and wonderful blessings, it also holds a lot of sorrow.  When you have no doubt that you are going to a place that holds only beauty and blessings – a place with with no heartache at all – death is reason to celebrate.

“It would be easier to celebrate your death if you weren’t so young,” I whisper/sighed.

I told her what I had been wanting to tell her.  I told her (no offense, C) that she had always been my favorite sister; that I had always looked up to her; that I had always loved her SO MUCH.  And then I apologized for making her cry.

C told a parable about a man who was going on a journey up a mountain.  He could hear his family and friends weeping and wailing and shouting their goodbyes as he climbed.  But, as he crested the mountain, he heard cheering and glad hellos coming from the other side.

“Give dad a big hug and a kiss for me,” I said, “I can see him, greeting you with a big smile and wide open arms.”

“It was a good visit,” she whispered as we hugged her goodbye.

On the journey back to my house, I called my mom from the passenger seat of C’s car to let her know how Laura was doing.  When I mentioned that hospice would be coming over the weekend, she started to sob. “I’m sorry, mom, maybe I shouldn’t have told you.”  “No,” she said, “I knew it was coming.”

I told C how glad I was that I got to tell Laura how much she meant to me.  And I started listing all the things I have loved and admired about her over the years.  And then I sobbed, too.

The tears felt good as they washed against the healing underside of my eyelid.

On the way to Laura’s that morning, C and I stopped at the ophthalmic surgeon’s office for my follow up appointment..  The pathologist’s report held good news.  The lesion was “nothing scary.”  Just inflamed tissue – no one knows why it happens and, unfortunately, it might happen again in another spot.

But at least it’s not cancer.  And that was good news.  Because my 85 year old mother could not take any more.

Thank you for all the kindness you’ve extended to me, blogging friends, and for all your prayers for my sister, her family and me.  I’ve been thanking God for the blessing you all are to me.

And now may the Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you and give you peace.

Standard
faith

400 Years

400 years of silence and then…

An old man in the temple
Waiting in the court
Waiting for the answer to a promise
And all at once he sees them
In the morning sunshine
A couple come in carrying a baby
Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
‘Cuz I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel
Mary and the baby come
And in her hand five shekels
The price to redeem her baby boy
The baby softly cooing
Nestled in her arms
Simeon takes the boy and starts to sing
Now that I’ve held Him in my arms
My life can come to an end
Let Your servant now depart in peace
‘Cuz I’ve seen Your salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel
Now’s the time to take Him in your arms
Your life will never come to an end
He’s the only way that you’ll find peace
He’ll give you salvation
He’s the Light of the Gentiles
And the glory of His people Israel
Now That I’ve Held Him In My Arms
by Michael Card

One of my all time favorites.  In case you’ve never heard it, you can sample it here:  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B002CJLGZU

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/waiting-room/

Standard