Pain, Politics, and Necessary Silence

I have met so many people through my spiritual formation coaching, travels, and seminary who have the most painful tales of spiritual abuse and wounding by “the church.” Sexual abuse from weekly church attending relatives who after preaching fire and brimstone went home and violated the little ones they should have protected. The only witnesses were the terrified or those who chose to pretend it wasn’t happening. Others who were told by bible toting family members that God’s judgement or curses would fall upon them when they unknowingly dabbled in an “occult” practice such as Astrology, Ouija, or Tarot.

 

Then there are those who are picking up the broken pieces that are left from the hyper-faith or positive confession movements when they don’t understand why the things they claimed and proclaimed never happened. They were told it was a matter of “faith.”  Statements such as “I don’t know why it didn’t work for you, it has always worked for me,” leave them bleeding and broken instead of held up during a time of need.

When miscarriages, cancers, or catastrophic accidents followed, they were left alone to question if they done something wrong to “deserve” it. It was impossible to see a God of hope through the darkness of judgment.

NoNeedtoFear

“No Need to Fear” by Kathy Self  (www.colorbrush.com) 

 

As if our loving God would beat and break someone for doing something without any awareness of the implications. It would be like a parent doling out the harshest punishment to our children for doing something we had never instructed them about. Never even mentioned or imagined.

As if our God is holding up a faith stick to see and whoever performs the highest, prays the most, claims the loudest, or speaks the most positively wins the prize.

And sometimes, they find their way to me through my spiritual formation, coaching, or travels. And I hurt with them as my own wounds now healed enough to effectively minister to others are also open enough to feel their pain. I don’t ever want my wounds to fully close.

There are seasons I allow myself to withdraw inward to my safe place with Jesus and forget how utterly painful the world can be.  Closed up in my room with my bible and Jesus, I let him speak to the inner recesses of my heart. A planned escape into a silent retreat where God beckons from the chaos and confusion.  I decided this morning it was time for that season, and my silent retreat is just days away.

It feels good forgetting. Even just for a moment. God lives in moments of time suspended by eternal threads of hope. 

It was something that I was never able to do before as  traumatic images and words followed me into the spaces that I tried to forge out of sheer will.

Sheer will produces nothing. The peace that comes from God, also must come through God – through the Holy Spirit, our comforter. I can speak up a holy tornado of tongues, multiplying into a diverse and neat sounding cacophony of angelic noise, but silence was something that wasn’t modeled in all my years of charismata.

Inner silence is necessary to the presence of God in the day by day pain of living out a history that isn’t always happy. His small still voice which can’t be found in the quaking of “demanding” prayer. 

I found silence in the contemplative traditions and those who model it.  I can’t help but feel its absence in many of the busy, noisy, feel good churches of today. I can’t help but wonder if the contemplative tradition was taught more in the churches would we see more healing, and in response to healthy disciples, more love, more peace, and less self-defense.

Healing takes place in the silent and sacred spaces. The places where God can speak to our hearts without shouting. Sometimes it happens as He uses a human vessel to help facilitate the confession of pain. When trusted images bearers listen to the story of Lament in a persons life they bring the presence of God into the sacred space. That’s what journeying together as a community is all about.

I facilitate a meeting between God and his person. A meeting that is filled with transforming and healing love. Once you have been touched by the restorative and healing power of our magnificent God you know you will never be the same. You don’t want to be – it’s like being born again- again. And again. And again. With each step further into being, another piece of stony heart is tendered into flesh.

I am thankful I had facilitators in the silence with me. I still do – especially when unknowing and unthinking others trigger the pain of the past and trauma rears up and tries to re-wound what God has healed. 

For every kind word I have heard uttered in the name of Jesus I have heard as many unkind. The church is angry and getting angrier by the minute. Differences in doctrines, opinions, lifestyle, produce anger in a “I am wiser than you” kind of attitude. Everything from women’s roles to speaking in tongues,  evolution to worship styles, and yes, political candidates – have become an opportunity for me to tell you how I think you should act or feel. I will insist that you vote- but really I am insisting you vote for my candidate. What other one can there possibly be? My doctrine is the correct one, my opinions the right ones.

All the while they are proclaiming the direction the country should take through the political process, world economics, immigration issues, constitutional laws, healthcare, and the myriad of other intensely complex issues that are required to make an educated guess at the best options –  they are hiding behind words of the gospel message as the foundation for the absolute wisdom of God’s “truth.”

Many are willing to divide, judge and fight –  ensconced behind a wall of self-interpreted scriptural principals. In the last few weeks I have had two Christians from polar opposite sides of the political spectrum angrily tell me that the “bible clearly states…”. I must admit that the conservative side of the spectrum appears much angrier as they fight for more self-maintained freedoms over otherness. 

Then there are the beautiful places. The sacred places in church community where bleeding is met with as much care as if it were Christ’s – caught in a cup of tenderness, not covered over by a band-aid of cliches.

Where opinions are heard and hearts are held. 

Dallas Willard said, “Kingdom rightness respects the soul need of human beings to make their judgments and decisions solely from what they have concluded is best. It is vital, a biological need. We do not thrive, nor does our character develop well, when this need is not respected, and this thwarts the purpose of God in our creation” (Divine Conspiracy, 1997, 175)

For many of us, our convictions go deep. I spent most of my Christian life leaning towards passive non-resistance.. It is murky for me, and deep. I have five members of the military in my family including sons and daughters, and a son who is in law enforcement. I couldn’t be prouder or sleep better knowing what they do – and the God they do it for. They understand my conscience and I understand theirs. It goes beyond “agree to disagree” to a mutual respect and knowledge of each others deep love for God, and making “judgments and decisions solely from what [we] have concluded is best.”

I can’t find that “out there” right now in the world of social media, news, and unlimited community. It is time for the introvert to retreat into the secret place of the most high with the the lamenters I am compelled to serve, and just be for a while.

Maybe when I get back, people will be listening to each other…

soaring towards the light, soaring towards hope.

 

The above painting by Kathy Self so perfectly captures my life. Transformed out of the cocoon of darkness into the magnificence of a butterfly, soaring towards the light; moving out of the darkness of a cult and hyper-faith, as God so faithfully drew me “further up, and further in.” Check out Kathy’s web site for other beautiful and reflective pieces of art. 
(I apologize for typos – I really need a proof reader)

 

Emmanuel Moments

Christmas Eve. 

  
Reflections of light from gold trimmed decorations mirror moments of joy glimmering in my heart. 

Glass stars point towards heaven as the Angel shines down upon gifts wrapped in disposable paper. 

Eternal lessons wrapped up as examples of Love incarnate; tokens of affection to carry a memory home. 

Infant child resting in his ceramic crib as the candle burns low. 

Laughter and tears mingle as the Redeem worship. 

Oh Holy night. 

The Violent Love of Christmas

There are defining moments in our lives that determine which path we will take, which direction we will travel, and how long we will take to arrive at our destination. For many of us, those defining moments turn into defining days, weeks, years, or even decades. I have found the Advent season to be a defining period that reflects back upon my decades of defining moments.

nativity

I appreciate the people who extend sympathies about the loss of our son when I blog or post about it – twenty-five years later. Though it is true I often state that I will never get over my son’s death in response to the common misconception that any of us should ever “get over” the loss of a loved one, I wouldn’t trade any of my life’s experiences for the endurance, and empathy it  has produced.

My life, my world view, and theological values and beliefs have all been shaped by the loss of my son. I identify with the quote by C.S. Lewis,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

I don’t know how to see life any other way than through the lens of faith and in the presence of Christ. Jesus is my oxygen and without Him I am left breathless.

The Christmas season is a such a wonderful time of reflection for me. Not just because it s a warm, fuzzy, happy time, but because the history of Christmas reflects the truth of real life – when we let it. 

Just as is happening today in Syria, the slaughtering of the innocent took place at the time and location of Jesus birth. Herod was murderer – so much so, that the writings of Josephus don’t even mention the biblical account of the slaughter of the male children under age two. In reality, there probably weren’t many males under age two, in the small town of Bethlehem at that time. Herod was known for the slaughter of multitudes so a few children would not have made history.

It was into that volatile climate that the Hope of the world was born. 

It is also important to note, that the reference to an “inn” is not what we would customarily think of today. There weren’t any Comfort Inns or Best Westerns at that time, and people generally stayed with extended family members, which was in the upper rooms of two story dwellings. “Stables” were a cordoned off sections at the back of the house or caves, on the first floor. Joseph and Mary had traveled about seventy miles to be present for the census. A long and arduous journey for a very pregnant woman. It is also quite possible that extended family didn’t make “room for them at the inn” because of the shameful circumstances surrounding her birth.

For me, there is great comfort in thinking of Jesus born into this persecuted family environment. That his mother Mary and father Joseph may have been mistreated by their own kin. It reveals the very true nature of mankind’s treatment towards those who should be the most loved and cared for. It shows the necessity to care for mothers, infants, widows, and those who family and society casts aside. It shows how we tend to hurt the ones we love the most. How we quickly make judgments based upon circumstances when we don’t know the truth.

As a carpenter, he was also born to the poorest of the poor, not to the highly esteemed. He wasn’t the one given the front row seats or who others sucked up to for influence. He would have been the one with the small struggling ministry, just trying to get by, but loving every minute of serving others. That is how I identify with him in his “Christian ministry.” It is what keeps me grounded. He lived a very real life – no prosperity gospel for Him.

The circumstances of His birth (and life) reveal the enormity of the message of love that God is trying to get across to us – a love that spans culture, status, economics, race, nationality, creed, gender – even family.

A sacrificial love – wrapped up in a parcel of what life looks like without any evidence of true agape love. Hidden, buried, waiting to be revealed through other sacrificial love givers – even in the darkest of times. 

The birth of Christ was wrought with sin, cruelty, selfishness, pride, and tradition.

It was also evidence of what a great difference in mankind a little bit of humility can make. A King of Kings not good enough to be given room in the suite because of personal prejudices and ignorance.

Yet he grew up to continue to live in humble love for us – even the shame and humility of the cross. 

Christmas is a time to reflect upon the pain of this world and the hope, love, joy, peace, and LIFE that overcomes that violence through brotherly love, and Christ-like humility.

Yes, I reflect upon the loss of my son a lot this time of year – the violence of it all – but mostly I reflect upon the birth of Christ, exemplified through His humanity, His poverty, His suffering, His humility – His great love. 

That is the real Christmas story.

Let’s make Jesus the reason for the season. 

There’s a Reason For Everything

Good words.

The Critical Bard

5 Phrases We Christians Love To Sing That Simply Aren’t True

#3. “There’s A Reason For Everything.”

Songwriters use this phrase as a way to make sense out of senselessness.  “I know You have Your reasons for everything,” one song says, “So I will keep believing.” While the motives for saying such a pretty phrase may be genuine, we go too far in assuming that we will eventually see those reasons.

807952_78951035

When a friend is going through a hard time, maybe a lay-off or a personal crisis, we try to comfort them with this phrase. “There’ a reason for everything,” we say. We mean to provide that person with faith in a sovereign God who leaves nothing to chance and purposes all things. Yet the result of our platitude is not deeper trust in God, but our friend now waiting to see “the reason” unfold.

While I wholeheartedly believe that…

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Lenten Losses (Wk.4 – 5)

I missed the last two Wednesdays of the community Lenten services. I did not miss God who reveals Himself the most clearly during suffering.

The blood was dripping down from the open wounds in His hands. My name was scribbled clearly across the palms. An image from God to remind me that His blood was shed for me – that his suffering was my suffering. It brought such a joyful reminder at that time, about two months ago, when I was thanking Him for loving me. Last week after walking through a fire destroyed home – an event that never should have happened, I asked him to show me how much He loves them. I saw the palms of his hands with the names of my daughter and grandsons. Each name was painstakingly written across His palms, reminding me again of how He brings resurrection out of the ashes of Lent – the ashes of suffering.

David’s name was written too – I can see them all written clearly. The names of the people I love most in the world who have been called to this dark place of humanity to wander the desert of grief.  C.S. Lewis said, “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”  Why didn’t I understand before how much fear also feels like grief?

The desert is full of mirages; places where you think you see a glimmer of hope; but it just dissipates as you move towards the wavering vision in a twisting, tormenting, torturing play. Yet, it is a glimmer of hope none-the-less, so you move slowly forward, always believing that the cool refreshing waters may lie just beyond the horizon.

lenten losses 2Fires, losses, deaths, uncertainty  – feelings of insanity that grasp your mind as they flutter through from one side to the other. Pounding headaches, confusion. Tears.

Lots of tears.

The overwhelming emotions of love – in pain. The Gethsemane moments when a loved one cries out, “Why have you forsake me?”  And I cry out, “why have you forsake them?”

This was the best Lent of my adult life. The first Lent I have celebrated in thirty-five years, and full of the richness I have missed. It’s been a year and a half of resting in God’s love and finding Him in the places I never really dared to look- inside myself. In finding the inner peace of the living Spirit, the outer Presence became my living, breathing reality.

Hidden places. Quiet places.

I have realized in the last two weeks that the only thing I value in this life anymore is God, and people – mostly the people I love.

The past is a distant memory – the Christ is my present reality.

Some of the scars still remain, some wounds remain partially opened. Healing is a process. The process takes longer when you don’t have a reprieve – a time to catch your breath before the next stretch of sand looms before you. David hasn’t even stopped to look at the sand marked “death of sister” for dealing with “love of family.”

He hasn’t had time to stop and see Jesus is writing in the sand, “I love you. I am here.”

The human side of me – the flesh, still wills for things of this world, comforts, vacations (Oh how Dave and I long for a real vacation), a more stress free life, that Dave didn’t have to work so hard, ministry finances to do His work …but it is the people who matter. It is for love of people we strive.

It is also the people – the relationships that cause the most pain. Things can be replaced, things don’t reject or get rejected, things are without depth, love, or interest. Selfless loves takes the nails in the place of someone else. It is not a thing, but a Person.

lenten losses 3Selfless love is excruciating and more often mistaken for something that it isn’t, rather than accepted for what it is. It is called words like insanity, hypocrisy, heresy, and blasphemy.

This Lent will be remembered for losses, but it will mostly be remembered for the people – the ones who Jesus would call “friend,” who stepped forward to help, email, call, text, or donate.

Not the friends, acquaintances, or community I expected, or that I was even hoping for (in my own hope of relationships I deemed should matter), but in the ones who were moved with compassion despite my church affiliation, friendship status, or the reason for this trial. Some of the people who expressed love know us by reputation, by ministry, by how we have helped others, or simply because they know one of our “great” kids.

I am thankful for the ones who prayed.

Churches who don’t even know us, but took time in their service or small groups to petition God on the behalf of our family. I am indebted to the body of Christ who rose up to be the hands and feet of God. Individuals who gave of their precious time to lift us before the Father in worship and petition.

There is always a lifting up. There is always a resurrection.

Death must always come first. Some individuals run from death, avoid it, are deceived by it, or fail to recognize it. They stay busy talking and doing. They want to pray it away, confess it away, scorn it, or fear it.

There are always hidden treasures buried in the dark places of death, but they have to be embraced to be realized.

This I have learned.

This I trust.

I’ll lead you to buried treasures,
    secret caches of valuables—
Confirmations that it is, in fact, I, God,
    the God of Israel, who calls you by your name…
I am God, the only God there is.
    Besides me there are no real gods…
I’m the one who armed you for this work,
    though you don’t even know me,
So that everyone, from east to west, will know
    that I have no god-rivals.
    I am God, the only God there is.”
Isaiah 45:2-6  The Message. 

I can only hope that God will use my life and experiences, and the lives of my children for His glory and for His purposes. It’s what the scriptures teach us – it’s what we believe. I will choose to trust that He is continuing to arm me for His work – the work of shedding light into the darkness of suffering. I will trust He is changing me by His work and will.

I have handed the lives of my children to Him, and though He may slay me, I will also trust in His wisdom and His ways for them.

I will trust He is forming light in my own heart and banishing the God rivals of this world that distract me from loving Him and loving others.

lenten losses 4Love hurts, but the losses make the resurrection more visible, more powerful, and more promising. Without death, there can be no resurrection.

 

(Note: On 3/7 one of our daughters who is six months pregnant lost everything in a house fire, escaping just in time with her two children. The greatest loss is her dreams – wrapped up in the painful and avoidable reason and cause of the fire. Some dreams that are lost can never be, and should never be replaced. In the midst of of that situation, my husband was notified of the death of his sister –  Lenten losses.

 

Lenten Love (Wk 3)

Suffering comes in many sizes, ages, shapes, weights, degrees, educations, and cultures.  He doesn’t play favorites or care about our economic or social status. It doesn’t matter if we are religious – or if we shake our fist at the sky in derision. Often he visits without notice and leaves abruptly; sometimes he chooses to stay with us for a long duration. Suffering is the great equalizer.

Suffering masks the presence of what is real. 

Lent LoveIn the movie the Matrix, Morpheus explains to Neo,

“Let me tell you why you’re here. You’re here because you know something. What you know you can’t explain, but you feel it. You’ve felt it your entire life, that there’s something wrong with the world. You don’t know what it is, but it’s there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad… You can feel it when you go to work… when you go to church…when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”

To blind us from the truth of God’s love.

There isn’t a cure for suffering, because once you walk alongside him, he changes you forever; but there is an antidote – “something that prevents or counteracts injurious or unwanted effects.”

lent love 6Love

The other night someone asked me what I do, and after discussing family and school, my ministry as a chaplain came up. I mentioned how it is beyond words for me to describe what happens when a person finds hope and healing in their suffering. This led the conversation onto a theological path that I had no intentions of following. Sometimes once we get a foot on that path, it is difficult to change the direction.

The person I was speaking to said they had never experienced suffering. I chose not to tell my story. The simplest of explanations were irrelevant as I found myself staying focused on the One who rescued me. Past theological perspectives swirled quietly around and tried to pull me down into an abyss of PTSD, judgement, and questions of “Why?” The thoughts and images fought for a place in my mind as I smiled attentively, and listened to the voice the Holy Spirit resounding more loudly, “It is finished. That includes you. Never ever forget His great love.”

Ten years ago it would have crippled me. Seven years ago I would have continue to chase the demons of why God had purposed to drive me through the tunnels of suffering which led to death, confusion, chaos, and hopelessness. Five years ago I would have rambled my defense, all the while hearing the fragmented voices of judgment questioning if I had done something horribly wrong – wondering if there was something horribly wrong with me. 

Lent Love 1I did do something horribly wrong – I made a horribly wrong choices which led to death.  But Jesus did something incredibly right which led to redemptive life.

God’s love is the antidote to the “unwanted effects” of suffering.

God is love. 

When someone is walking with suffering, Love takes them by the hand and leads the way through the murky depths. Love bandages the wounds and feeds the soul. Theology gets replaced by mercy, doctrine is put aside for compassionate acts, self-ambition is buried, and the law is drowned by the fountains of grace.

Lent love 2

“Just then a religion scholar stood up with a question to test Jesus. ‘Teacher, what do I need to do to get eternal life?’

He answered, ‘What’s written in God’s Law? How do you interpret it?’

He said, “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and that you love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.”

‘Good answer!’ said Jesus. ‘Do it and you’ll live.’

Looking for a loophole, he asked, ‘And just how would you define ‘neighbor’?’

Jesus answered by telling a story. ‘There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. On the way he was attacked by robbers. They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off leaving him half-dead. Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side. Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also avoided the injured man.

A Samaritan traveling the road came on him. When he saw the man’s condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then he lifted him onto his donkey, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable. In the morning he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill—I’ll pay you on my way back.’

What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man attacked by robbers?’

The one who treated him kindly,’ the religion scholar responded.

Jesus said, ‘Go and do the same.”’                    Luke 10:25-37 The Message

lent love 7

We can only reveal to others what we have embraced for ourselves.

It was three o’clock in the afternoon one day last week, and I hadn’t eaten yet. I knew there was little in the house so I drove through a food chain to pick up soup and salad for myself, and a brownie for my son who had just joined me. As I left the take out window and rounded a corner, he was there holding a sign, “Homeless.” I stopped next to him and prompted my son to ask him, “Have you eaten yet?” He said he hadn’t. We quickly handed him the bag of hot soup, salad, and a water bottle and he replied, “Thank you. God bless you.” As we pulled away I looked at Sam and laughed, “Darn, I’m hungry.” Immediately the Lord spoke to my heart and I said, “Sam, it was so easy to give him a bag of food, but what we didn’t do was give him our love. If we see him again, we need to take the time to invite him inside the restaurant for a meal, and learn about his life.”

lent love 4Dave was waiting in line at a Piano guys concert with Sam, birthday gifts to the two of them from our daughter, when he gave his last ten dollars to homeless vet to catch the train. As he watched him walk away, he questioned if they could have done more.

We only lived a portion of the Good Samaritan’s love. It was within my means to walk beside the homeless man, and possibly bandage some wounds. Even if just for a brief moment. What would it have meant instead of ten dollars, to drive him to N.Y.C. and in doing so, maybe change a life by an act of Love.

Last night in a powerful Lenten message of love and suffering, my brother in Christ gave an example, “Ever notice how everyone who gets a flat tire can laugh about it a week or a month later? She shorter the distance between the flat and the laugh, the healthier the body, the keener the mind, the stronger the spirit.”  He expounded upon the love of God expressed to others in their suffering. He has been there, and love won.

We are called to stop and help with the heavy burdens of life’s tires, not to drive by and call a tow truck, or even hand out tools. We are to help restore the laugh.

lenten 5The words of others from varying backgrounds – justice, judgment, forgiveness, or deliverance no longer hold any ground over the actions of Love. What a powerful, irreversible, and life changing moment takes root when the love of God and others, provides the antidote. The unwanted effects of suffering become the channel by which our own love is deepened, restored, and extended to others.

Paul said in Romans 11:33,

 “Have you ever come on anything quite like this extravagant generosity of God, this deep, deep wisdom? It’s way over our heads. We’ll never figure it out.”  

Is there anyone around who can explain God?
Anyone smart enough to tell him what to do?
Anyone who has done him such a huge favor
    that God has to ask his advice?
Everything comes from him;
Everything happens through him;
Everything ends up in him.
Always glory! Always praise!
    Yes. Yes. Yes.”

I learned during my conversations the other night that flat tires no longer phase me. My laugh comes within hours, even moments.

Love is winning.

God grant us the grace to love.

A Towel and a Bowl Pt. 1- Veterans

Serving others sometimes involves dirty and undesirable tasks that none of us really want to do. Yet Jesus said that we would be “blessed” if we did them. What kind of blessing was He referring to? There is a lot of debate surrounding this passage of scripture, some holding to foot washing as part of the ceremonial ordinance like communion -the bread and the cup, and others tossing out the idea that we are to literally wash the feet of the saints.

wash20feet The evening meal was being served. The devil had already tempted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon. He had told Judas to hand Jesus over to his enemies.  Jesus knew that the Father had put everything under his power. He also knew he had come from God and was returning to God. So he got up from the meal and took off his outer clothes. He wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a large bowl. Then he began to wash his disciples’ feet. He dried them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

 He came to Simon Peter. “Lord,” Peter said to him, “are you going to wash my feet?”  Jesus replied, “You don’t realize now what I am doing. But later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter. “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you can’t share life with me.” “Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet! Wash my hands and my head too!”

 Jesus answered, “A person who has had a bath needs to wash only his feet. The rest of his body is clean. And you are clean. But not all of you are.” Jesus knew who was going to hand him over to his enemies. That was why he said not every one was clean. When Jesus finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes. Then he returned to his place.

“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord.’ You are right. That is what I am.  I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet. So you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have given you an example. You should do as I have done for you.  “What I’m about to tell you is true. A servant is not more important than his master. And a messenger is not more important than the one who sends him.  Now you know these things. So you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:1 -17

I have had it both ways – in our past fellowship it was ceremonial footwashing, awkwardly done once a year to prove we followed God’s command. Women washed women’s feet, men washed men. The women more often than not left their stockings on. Absolutely no ones feet were dirty or unkempt, but to the contrary, properly washed and pedicured to look our best. I suppose that somehow it made us more holy to be willing to submit to this awkward practice of dripping water over a pair of stocking feet, while we all murmured a “praise Jesus” or two.

I am not meaning to be trite – but when I reflect back upon what it meant to me as a  fairly new believer, I must admit that any spiritual growth or significance was really lost to me. Then again, I was in a legalistic cult at the time, and  I couldn’t opt out for fear I would miss the mark, and disappoint Jesus.  (Maybe even lose my salvation for not being “obedient to the Word.”)

Maybe awkward itself is the humbling part.

However, when Dave and I  had a foot washing as a surprise ending to our marriage weekend,  it was a huge success. The act of washing each others feet, combined with a vow of covenant, made for a really sacred time. The majority of couples all talked about it being the very best part of any weekend -symbolic of the commitment to serve each other and not themselves.  Clean feet, sacred purpose.

It’s all about heart and attitude.

Acts of service are often dirty, smelly, difficult, and embarrassing. The humblest of jobs.  Mary wiping Jesus feet with her hair seems pretty humbling to me. Pretty dirty and messy too. And very, very,loving.

when women love 3Caring for the toilet needs of dying, elderly and infirm are also really humbling. It was much easier for me to wash stockinged feet than to attend to the most basic needs of elderly loved ones. How about midwives attending to laboring women? Nurses?  But love goes into the deepest gutters to serve.

Mother Theresa did.

Let’s talk about the homeless.  Their feet aren’t very clean. They usually smell, sometimes have lice, missing teeth… Our hands get very dirty.

We are just weeks away from Veterans Day but Halloween always gets much more P.R. than our nations military. We have the population of an entire city of veterans without a home, in need of a literal footwashing…

…as well as a figurative one – in need of love and care. They need someone to find them, help them, feed them, care for them, and love on them. We can’t always fix the problem, but we can try – we can at least educate ourselves in traumatic stress and try to enter into their world of darkness.

The light of Christ’s love shatters darkness brighter than any LED.

We can let them to know that they are not forgotten; let them know that the price they paid for us does not go unnoticed.  We are thankful. Truly, deeply thankful.

wash feet 2We can let them know that Jesus loves them. That He can’t be here to wash their feet and feed them, so “please may we come in His place?”

There are two main points in the act of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples –

First,  He was willing to wash the feet  of Judas – the one who was going to betray him. (Anticipatory forgiveness -part 2 of this blog)

Second, washing their feet was sacrificial service beyond the call of duty.  The Para-rescue of the religious services.

Jesus’ death was imminent. He knew that. He could have been hanging out, telling his disciples that the end was near so “take care of me,”  and “serve me”. He could have been telling them he wanted to go hang out at home and enjoy His last days with his family.

If I knew that I had days to live, I don’t think I would be saying, “Hey, I’m going to spend my last few days  serving the poor and washing their feet.”  But not Jesus. Jesus wanted us to understand the importance of Christian service up until the end. Until it hurts.

Whether it is ceremonial or not, Jesus modeled for us the heart and attitude of acts of service. It is the very thing that  under-girds every one of His words and actions. Everything is done from the place of love.   If we don’t serve others, and practice ordinances with the heart of Christ, it’s just another washing.

And we know how he felt about that.

“The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus 2and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:“ ‘These people honor me with their lips,but their hearts are far from me.

They worship me in vain;their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.””

wash f

This veterans day, let’s consider how we can wash the feet of our homeless veterans, and model to them the love and service of Jesus Christ.

Thank you.

When Your “Joy of the Lord” Has a Head Cold

News about a new blood test identifying depression has been in the news the last few weeks. The test measures the blood levels of RNA – a chemical used to process our DNA, and may even help doctors to identify those who would benefit the most from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy  – “Talk therapy”  – “as a man thinks in his heart, so he believes.”  (Newsweek.com 9/14)

Practice Time

I was a willing volunteer for blood draw practice in the Philippines. I teach my trainees we serve where needed!

I am pretty excited about this new discovery – maybe, just maybe, this will help Christ followers and non-Christ followers to treat other Christians suffering from a mental health challenge, or mental “illness” with the same kindness of those who have a physical ailment.

I am still amazed at how many people can discuss a mental health issue like depression or anxiety with statements like, “They need to focus on the Lawd!” Or, “The joy of the Lawd is my strength!” Or, “They have a spirit of fear.” Or, “They need to trust God for peace.” “They need to hand it to God.” (That is one of my husbands personal favorites – as if we don’t all try to do that?)

You get the picture. You have probably heard them all before.

The same people go on in the next breath to say, “The doctors just switched my diabetes medication to___.” “…my high blood pressure medication  to…” “I’m on an antibiotic for my cold.”

As if we as a beautiful human creation can be compartmentalized into – BODY. SOUL. SPIRIT.

I’m gonna throw it out there – it’s OK to be obese, but it’s not OK to be depressed? Wait, don’t they very often go hand in hand? Impulse eating, comfort food?

Addictions?when your joy 1Why do many of us north country folks put on weight in the long, cold, dark, depressing winters of the Northeast?

I know why I do – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) Such an appropriate name. “SAD”

As the weather is turning and the leaves are changing I feel my head beginning to – – I can’t even put it into words. I can only identify what God has taught me about myself and my own mental health – that this is when I beef up my supplements, boundaries, and self-care. I spend time with people who want to take the time to get to know me – to get to know us- and us them. No masks, pretenses, religiosity, Christianeze. Dave hates it. He is who he is. I think who he is, is pretty awesome. God has done a tremendous work in keeping us in His grasp. We are pretty easy to get to know…

I blog.

For me, the weather is combined with the multitude of losses that we as a family have experienced – all from the fall of 2002 through Easter Sunday of 2007 (when my infant grandson was on life support), topped off by the years of repressed grief over the traumatic loss of our son on December 10, 1990 and the spiritual abuse that surrounded, and followed it.

I love the fall. I hate the fall. It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s my least favorite time of the year. I look forward to it. I loathe its coming. fall

I could spend my time convincing myself I need to have more “Joy of the Lawd,” (been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt with the writing on the front “Hyper faith” or “Faith Message”) or I can take Vitamin D, St. Johns Wort, Omega 3’s and do light therapy in the mornings, WHILE I am spending  time in the presence of the Light of the World.

I choose the latter.

I also take extra Vitamin C, Zinc, Echinacea and Elderberry Syrup (my daughter Kristen makes it) for my physical health. I use more natural Lysol type products and hand sanitizer too.  There is stress associated with the changing seasons to colder months.

O ye of little faith!

“Mental disorders are common in the United States and internationally. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older or about one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people.” (http://www.thekimfoundation.org/html/about_mental_ill/statistics.html)

OK, those are the diagnosable ones. The longer term. How about the days we all get “blue” and just need a little extra TLC? Or experience loss. That’s a big one.

There are an awful lot people who just need to know it’s OK when their joy of the Lord has a head cold. We all just need a little more TLC, a little empathy, a  little trying to understand from someone else’s perspective.  Or at least acknowledging we don’t have a clue how they feel.

A little more Jesus.

I’ll go with that.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Cor. 13

 

Thousands in Iraq, a Baby, and One Actor

It took me over a week to write this. Unusual for me. The words usually fly straight from my heart. I cried a bit more than usual last week. More than usual this time of year when the sun is shining and weather uplifting. It was a sad week. A week with the reality of losses – others, and my own. Maybe its sadness from feeling helpless in the face of so many current personal challenges.

cloud wiht light shiningThey seem to never end…

Yet they pale in comparison to others.

Maybe it is the world challenges that break my heart and leave me with graphic images of suffering. Evil killing babies.

Maybe it was having the family home this last weekend and yet feeling the gaps of those who have moved on in the last two years. Levi choosing a dangerous career path to protect us from the evil of those who kill babies.

Maybe it’s my loneliness. New place, new church, no established friendships. Struggling to build and rebuild my life – my ministry.

I’m not so young anymore. I’m tired.

Maybe it’s not seeing that much of Dave always working overtime to provide.  He worked from home for four years as our lives unfolded into what we believed was our future. Our dream home. Our dream farm.

Then poof – gone. A vapor. Like all of life.

He’s tired.

Maybe it was visiting my son’s graveside for the first time that I can remember with one of my children. She wanted to see the new tombstone. I watched her run her hands over the writing and gently brush away any debris.

June 2014 Micaiah J Grubb 428I didn’t want to cry just then. I would have wept.

Maybe it was because it was the end of a nice day at Shelburne museum walking around with Sam,  I was acutely aware that the last time I was there I had three children with me, and though I knew I was at the tale end of a long career of homeschooling, I still had young, dependent children with me.

Empty nest. The flock has dwindled.

Working in grief and loss is taxing, and yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Working with people who are dealing with death, suicide, traumatic loss, eating disorders, grief upon grief is hard.

But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Not working with  them is even more difficult.

It robs me of my purpose, my calling.

I wonder if that is what happened to Robin Williams.

a baby 1For someone who struggles with mental illness perspective is everything.

He spent his life making others laugh – it was obviously how he coped with his own mental illness – by bringing joy to others out of his own darkness.  He was getting older, more physically challenged. He was on his third wife.  His weekly comedy show had been cancelled after one season. He was no longer on the rise to fame, but trying to maintain the life that brought him purpose.  He must have felt terrible alone when he took that last desperate measure to find peace.

An entire generation benefited by his darkness. An entire country – who never really knew what he went through to make us laugh.

News reports over 200,000  Christians have been forced to flee their homes in Iraq.  Children – CHILDREN – have been brutally murdered.

Iphone 279They didn’t have a choice – it was pay a high tax levy to remain Christian, convert to Islam, or die.  They are called “Nazarene s” by their killers, by ISIS.

They have lost everything for the God they believe in. For a Carpenter from Nazareth. They have lost everything for Jesus.

They have witnessed children crucified, beheaded, shot, and hacked in half.  The women and young girls have been raped and taken for slaves.  Numbers from June were roughly 2,000 dead and 300 taken for slaves.

Churches that are thousands of years old have been razed.

Iraqi’s are living through the unimaginable.

They must feel very close to that Carpenter to endure such hardship.

And very far away.

So what does my baby, Robin Williams and thousands of Christians have in common?

A fallen world.  Suffering. Trauma.

In the morning (3) - Copy copy

They are now traumatized. The suicide rate increases when people suffer or witness trauma. Depression increases. It is about more than faith – it is also about brain chemistry. They need prayer for ongoing miracles and healing strength to keep them.  They need hope – the hope that only God can give. Suicide can take on various forms and never be labeled as such. Reckless behavior often takes over with the need to do something. To make a difference, to right the wrong. Adrenalin is needed for bravery – God made us that way.

We need to react to horrors to stay alive.  We also need to get through the horrors to stay alive. We need to gain emotional strength and resiliency in the face of lost dreams, futures, children, images, sounds, smells, voices.

Even Christians need hope for the future. Even Christians need help. They can get weary too.

I have.

I want to help them. I want to look into their eyes and go into that pain with them. To help them find a way out. At least help them to see a glimmering light again in the distance. It’s what I do when I can fulfill my purpose. It’s what we all need to do.

 

 

CALMING THE STORM

Written by a friend of mine who just experienced a “storm.” Good read.

The Critical Bard

You are the peace in my troubled sea (My Lighthouse)

Would call out through the rain, And calm the storm in me (Who Am I)

He can heal your wounded soul, And calm the storm inside (With Every Breath)

‘Cuz You’ll be next to me, You’re in the eye of the storm, And the calm of the sea (Let the Waters Rise)

Who can calm ev’ry storm, You are the only One (You are the Only One)

1195833_42992190If I hear another song about calming the storms in my life, I think I might vomit.  No really. I don’t do well on open seas. The only time I went deep sea fishing I ended up below deck (apparently not a good thing to do when you start to get sick). My brother joined me shortly thereafter, followed by my dad. Three guys, very green and very seasick. Horrible experience. I would’ve…

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