The Baton Has Been Passed

#60 seeds

 

The baton has been passed, my friend is gone. Prayers for comfort, peace and healing linger still as they gently shift toward the family she adored.

 

While we weep her loss and consider her life, she speaks still – from a place we haven’t yet seen. Her voice is clear and delivered with a cadence of familiarity, “Press on, stand strong, give grace, cry for the helpless, dream patiently, live with conviction and fervor, love unsparingly, live unceasingly, hope unreservedly.”

 

She now lives without time, or pain, or fear, or worry. Our clocks tick on with a voice of challenge to live and die like her. Her beautiful baton has been laid down for our picking up.

 

Weep with me. Listen with me. And run wholeheartedly toward the goal she’s now reached.

 

 “Your life is your own, your glory is your glory, but you will lose it if you keep it for yourself. Grasp it for the sake of others.” Nate Wilson – author and her beloved son-in-law

 

 

 

Memorial Day – More Than Remembrance

#43 memorial collage

 

The three day weekend is fast approaching. We will remember our heroes through an avalanche of patriotic commercials and emotional photos. The nation will take a short pause to commemorate our fallen on Memorial Day.

Like most major holidays the media inundates us with ads, short video clips and images. The Memorial Day photographs are meant to stimulate patriotism. They will be moving. They will be clean and pretty, leaving us with good feelings which is somewhat perplexing since they represent a very different reality.

In fairness, most difficult life experiences look better when we’re farther away from them.

I’m grateful I’ve never had to watch someone be struck by a bullet or smell the smoke of smoldering flesh. It’s hard to imagine the photos shown on Memorial Day come even close to depicting the devastation they represent.

I wonder how veterans who’ve lived through the real-life experiences of war think of the polished up images we circulate. The disabled vet who sits at the intersection panhandling in our community probably doesn’t have a Twitter account to give his opinion on the issue. He anesthetizes his mind from memories and we anesthetize ours to him as we pass by – even on Memorial Day.

It’s probably safe to assume the general population can’t identify with him. Besides not understanding the trauma of his combat, he’s certainly not airbrushed enough for our applause. Like many, he’s still attached to the umbilical cord of his pain.

Internal wars are just as hard to understand as physical wars. Inner wars bring their own kind of pain, suffering and even death.

As I sit in my comfortable chair plucking my keyboard in hypothetical thoughts, I am challenged with what I can do. How can I serve the wounded. The broken in our villages need to be fed, listened to and truly honored.

The battle-weary soldiers of internal wars are the poor and the brokenhearted spoken of in Isaiah 61. Many people are held prisoners of war right in our own communities, and they are part of us.

The truth is we all would benefit by standing at attention on Memorial Day. We’re all part of a battle and called to fight in a very real war.

Our identity and dignity are contingent upon truly remembering. By ongoing remembrance and involvement. More than a pause – a lingering that initiates action.

I want to be more than moved this Memorial Day. I want to be enlisted into the causes that move my Heavenly Father. I want to take my place on the battlefield of my own community, so maybe one day I’ll hear my commander say, “This one fought the best she knew how. She lingered long enough to act.”

For today – I linger and humbly ask forgiveness for my own lethargy and preoccupation with myself. I willingly yield these unfocussed eyes to open and see opportunity beyond the polished images of the hour.

 

Courageous Faith

 

#41 courageous faith

 

Courageous faith stands taller than, wider than, and deeper than any faith I’ve experienced. Although I don’t fully understand it, I recognize it when I see it. Courageous faith seems to emerge out of the darkest places. It rises up above wild angry seas. it surfaces from tumultuous rapids and within the flames of fire.

People who demonstrate courageous faith rarely realize they have it. It seems to come with a soft garment of humility. It grows in adversity and it cannot be tamed.

No one wants the circumstances that accompany courageous faith. No one relishes storms, rapids or consuming fires. For courageous faith lives within adverse circumstance. It doesn’t tell the circumstance what to do or try to predict its outcome. Like outcome, it’s beauty and power cannot be captured.

When circumstances squeeze in around the strong shoulders of such faith, arms reach down to lift observers up top. I’ve seen the broad shoulders grow big enough to carry whole communities, families and the faithless.

Storms and fires want to overpower courageous faith – but they can’t. Our powerlessness and dependence are its energy boosters, growth-generating enhancers. The higher the waves, the greater its resistance. The deeper the waters, the more buoyant it is. The hotter the furnace, the more brilliant it becomes.

Courageous faith is not of this world. We can’t learn it, earn it or reproduce it. We can’t even properly describe it, but when we see it, we know it.

Whether from the top of someone’s shoulders or within a storm ourselves, if we look long enough, we will see the face of God. He is the lifeblood of courageous faith – he is the anchor, the author. He is the breath, the depth and the width.

Strength, valor, grit, and perseverance can be found in the middle of any circumstance.

Today is the day to fill our own cup of trust. We do it by consuming the Word of God and spending time with him. Our cup is filled one spoonful at a time by dependence and brokenness.

Believe. Trust. Grab hold – so when the waters rise, when the seas try to overtake us or fires rage – we will be ready for the miracle of courageous faith. He promises to be there. With us. Our overcomer. Our strong defender. Our God. Our courage and our strength.

 

 

 

When Mother’s Day Isn’t A Happy Day

#40 mothers day

 

My stomach began to tighten the day the calendar turned from April to May. Faces of friends, looming situations and broken dreams began to subtly wrapped their tentacles around the upcoming holiday we call Mother’s Day.

For some women I know, a rose at church or a trite Mother’s Day greeting are salt to an open wound. For others, the absence of these gestures grate on the soul like sandpaper.

I spent hours on the phone the other evening with a mother deeply grieving the loss of her only child who died six months ago. Words failed me. I know three other women who have shared the same painful loss this past year. Mother’s Day will never be happy for them again. It’s also a difficult day for those who have lost their mother, either by death or to the slow spiral of deterioration of Alzheimer’s.

Other women sit waiting in the lonely cell of barrenness – hoping for a miracle. They dread the fact another empty-armed Mother’s Day will come and go for them. Still others are waiting to hear from their prodigal son or daughter lost to the evil clutches of addiction. There are no words for them either. How can we comfort someone in such silent pain. How can we make Mother’s Day a happy day for them?

My heart aches for the hurting and grasps for words that soothe. Words that comfort and ease the guilt of a society that broad brushes our holidays with trite slogans and endless adds. It’s not our fault that commercialism leads us by the nose to the card counter, the flower shop and simplistic quotes. But it is our fault when we don’t bother to consider the unique lives of individuals in the process.

Mother’s Day doesn’t need to be eliminated in order to alleviate the pain of hurting women. But Mother’s Day can be sensitized by our care for the individual people in our circles.

Our words and actions have power. We can offer solace to the hurting by our understanding.

Celebrate the gift of motherhood with women presently enjoying it. But also look for those who need more than a quote, more than a rose – they might just need you. A hug, a cup of coffee, shared tears and most of all – a listening ear. Let them talk and tell you their stories over and over and over again.

May we be a society that bothers to know each other well and strives to love our neighbors appropriately. May we demonstrate compassion, kindness and care this Mother’s Day. And be a blessing to someone who might find the day difficult.

 

Reflections from Renewal

with Wess Stafford 4

 

Last weekend will go down in my personal history book with a dog-eared marker and more memories than 72hrs should be allowed to carry.

I attended and participated in a conference with hundreds of early educators who love and serve children.

Worship leader Peter Neumann watered our parched souls. Inspirational speakers reignited our passion to press forward in doing what we know we’re called to do – serve our littlest with grace and humility. And nothing drove that truth home for me better than our keynote speaker Dr Wess Stafford, from Compassion International.

Wess Stafford understands service. He also understands humility and the upside-down economy of the Kingdom of God.

Children matter to Wess Stafford and people who invest in the lives of children do too.

I was mesmerized by his keynote address Sat morning – but it was observing his life behind the scenes that drove stakes of influence deep into my soul. I watched Dr Stafford attentively listen to each person who approached him. One by one they came up to him to share their personal stories.

His eyes sparkled and narrowed as he listened and tenderly conveyed to them, “I’m honored to be in your presence”.

When a camera surfaced for a photo, he would grab his new friend close like a proud dad – tilt his head into them, and with a gentle smile of familiarity thank them by name for the privilege of the meeting.

He listened. He invested. He expressed value through understanding and authenticity. He became Christ in the moment.

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I had the privilege of speaking at the Fri evening service. I was told Dr Stafford might arrive early enough to attend. Of course I knew he wouldn’t – he’s WAY too important to be bothered. And his commitment began the next day.

The service was held in a dimly lit room which was beautifully decorated with dozens of candles. The sea of faces blurred into the overpowering soft glow of candlelight.

Minutes after we started it became apparent there would be no eye contact with the audience which actually aligned nicely with the direction I felt God wanted the service to go. It was also a good solution for my concern about the possibility of speaking in front of a big name celebrity.

God met each of us in the candlelit room – he listened. He valued and affirmed us.

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The next day Wess Stafford came up to thank me for the previous evening service. I couldn’t believe it. He came and we both survived.

As I looked into his eyes, I understood. Yes, he’s a brilliant leader, advocate, author, and is known around the world – but he truly gets who he is. He’s just another one of God’s equally valued children – we all are. When he says children matter, he means it. I mattered. I will never forget the minutes he gave me and how it affected me.

I plan to reread my copies of Too Small to Ignore and Just a Minute.

After all, someone from my playground wrote them – and he’s my new hero and friend!!

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What I learned:

  • It only takes a minute to make a lasting deposit in someone’s heart
  • God’s presence dispels our false ideas of what makes us grand
  • Affirmation without humility only affirms the person giving it
  • And – God loves us, truly loves us – because we are his