Wednesday, May 20, 2020

LIKE A BRUISED REED







Like a bruised reed
my trust bends,
struggling to straighten.

It has been hit many times,
knocked over in its tenderness,
swept under in spite of its fierce intention.

Yet it continues to vulnerably battle -
to believe, to appropriate, to strength train;
It longs for new faith to rise up in victory.

Believing used to be easy
After tragedy, it was work
Not exactly mistrust...
for I trust His character.
But the shocking phenomenon of so many paradoxes
complicating my understanding and faith...
these have rocked my world.


Prayer is not what I thought -
not just because I didn´t get what I most wanted
But because thousands of others could not change His mind.

Faith is not what I thought - 
it is so much more than the mustard seed
more than the motive,
more than the perseverance,
more than the love.

Healing is not what I thought
It feels random because we cannot see into those realms -
Realms where the bigger kingdom picture is clear
realms where heaven and earth meet
realms we cannot pierce in our humanity.
Some are not healed with all the faith in the world
While others are healed with a single prayer.
God has the right.
But I am perplexed.


Why are some people´s mountains moved and mine not?
Why do some people suffer so much and others hardly at all?
Why do some people "just believe" and proclaim
While others do the same thing and nothing changes?
God has the right.
But I am troubled.

Paradoxes of healing and faith
of prayer and miracles
of my part & God´s part
of asking for what He promises...
but perhaps not receiving it literally,
perhaps not how you expect,
perhaps not even at all...
at least that you can see.

Paradoxes bewilder me
and they have nagged at my foundation.
Oh, Lord! Build my trust reed & let it grow!
Help me to accept the presence 
of both promises & paradoxes,
of simplicity and ambiguity
of certainties and enigmas
of clarity and mystery.

Many things are unclear
but I choose to trust you -
your love, your plans, your grace.
My trust may be a bit ragged,
somewhat fragmented,
even broken in places
but it is there -
I place it in the mystery that is You.
You know best
You deliver what is right,
no matter what it looks like
or feels like
or sounds like
or seems like.
You do all things well.

My trust, like a bruised reed,
calls out to You.






"A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
till he establishes justice on earth..."
Isaiah 42:3,4




Photo by: Ron

Sunday, May 10, 2020

LORD, BE MY DEFAULT




Lord, be my default.
I want emotional triggers to take me to You, 
Not to anger or frustration or self-centeredness or other places that are not Your will for me.
Please work Your love & holiness deeper into my heart through dedication to renew my mind.

Protect me from choosing things that take away from my relationship with you.
Protect my mind from fear or worry that arise from today´s prevalent, pommeling information.
Protect my soul from going to dark places with the negative news.
Shine your light on my path - "Your Word is a lamp to my feet, a light to my path."
I need Your truth to ground me and to guide me.

Protect my body from defaulting to laziness because things are not ideal under quarantine.
Remind me of its purpose as a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Give me patience in the waiting & the changing uncertainty from day to day.
Give me flexibility in my work, projects that change daily & require extra work.
Remind me that my service & work is for You & for others You love. 

Show me what you are doing so I can join you...
Reveal to me the work of my hands -
Let me love & celebrate each positive change;
Guide me to know how to navigate this new time.

They say things will never be the same again.
So please give us not just wisdom, but revelation.
As for your people, help us to be ready for what it so come
Fill us with compassion & action for those suffering economically, educationally
Give us wisdom as politicians wax eloquently but most often misleadingly
Give us love & passion to pray for all to be ready for these new times.

Give us creativity, freshness, renewed ideas for these times to show you, Jesus.
Help us to work less but to give more meaningfully
Help us to be ready -
to be who You want us to be post-quarantine;
for life is different;
give us Your mind to see how we should move forward.  
Help us to be ready as Your church, Lord Jesus.
May You be exalted as we "be still and know You are God." (Ps 46:10)

Lord, please be my default;
I want everything in me to lead to You.
And to the extension of your kingdom.



Photo:  Marco Herrera




Saturday, May 2, 2020

THE PLACE OF CREATIVITY (during COVID-19)





The world has been shaken -
The health care world,
The business world & our economy,
Forms of education,
Methods of work,
Ways of meeting for faith groups,
Connection between friends & family,
There are gripping stories for each of these -
of suffering, of sadness, of loss, of perseverance, 
of boredom & loneliness, anxiety about the future, 
of long hours & long days.

But one thing has triumphed: Creativity!
We have seen nurses creating comfort out of mere cotton balls,
businesses learning new tools & pushing forward under incredible odds,
educators having to change tactics & work under incredible uncertainty,
people giving of their talents to bring cheer & enhance community,
and confinement has given many of us time to try & create some new hobby -
something maybe we´ve wanted to do for a long time but now finally have the time for - 
& no excuses!

Creativity is a gift from God.
He is the ultimate Creator of all things wonderful.
The power of his very word formed, crafted, painted, 
gave unimaginable colors to flora & fauna.
He designed, shaped, fashioned & composed.
He created things for all five of our senses.

The human capacity to create under duress has struck me.
And I wonder...
What new expressions will emerge from this time?
What new expressions will come from you?
Which ones will come from me?

Creating can be a powerful outlet for hidden emotions.
Creating can be an impressive energetic force in fatigue, depression and trauma.
Creating for some is a relaxing way to spend some free time,
While others create for a living.
The most powerful art I have experienced has come from a very deep place.
It cannot be faked.
Pure joy cannot be fully expressed unless one has known despair.
Light cannot be conveyed unless one has first known darkness.
Tones, nuances, subtleties in dance, music & art in all its forms are impossible
without reaching into a deep-seated place.
Beauty like that resonates like a soulmate within you when you encounter it.

So, what will this pandemic produce?
What have we experienced in lockdown?
Have you thought about it, talked about it, written it down, perhaps?
Have you noticed changes in yourself and payed attention to others around you?
Or have you put your head down & pushed yourself to work through it?
We have been given a gift of time...a special time that we will never forget.
Let´s not waste it.
We need to change.
Our communities need it. Our governments need it. Our world needs it.
The fact that this human lockdown has literally healed parts of the planet such as the natural purification of Venice´s canals or the massive decline in pollution and greenhouse gases in China is phenomenal.
How else is the Creator God healing the earth right now?
Who can discern the vast spiritual, emotional and physical healings?   
The Church needs healing.
All of our communities need healing.
All of the nations need healing and words of life.

Pay attention to your new creations.
They are His promptings to you.
He meets you there
and if you listen, He speaks.
We have an opportunity to emerge changed people from this time in isolation.

And so, I wonder...
What new expressions will emerge from this time?
What new expressions will come from you?
Which ones will come from me?








Photo by:  Kristian Niemi

Friday, April 17, 2020

EVERYDAY ALTARS, CROSSES & COMPASSES (during COVID-19)



This COVID-19, like most disease or illness, is shamelessly apathetic
There is no one it will not touch
It is indifferent to race, age, gender and geography
It separates, divides and detaches
It robs families of proper good-byes and funerals
even healing touch is not outside of its stoic capacity to annul.

As usual, the most vulnerable, are targets
the virus is heartless as regards suffering of all kinds
It targets the weak, the elderly, those already ill and
those in compromised, miserable living situations.
It is not put off by war zones or refugee camps
It ruptures trust between government and its people,
between industries and countries
between neighbors and families and cities.
It delights in distancing people socially and geographically,
People are stuck at home or away from home or somewhere in between.

Its power to close is monumental
places that have never been closed a day have been forced to retreat behind closed doors.
Services and pleasantries that are adjacent, convenient, neighborly
stand closed in quiet defeat while the virus mocks
The surge in sudden medical needs have rocked the hospitals & clinics
obliging them to spread out into hotels and tents and industrial parks
The long waits for masks, alcohol, respiratory machines & quick tests
are interminable and for many the wait is too long and too late.

The virus has not only spread geographically
but it has usurped the press, people´s conversations, the internet, our thoughts
It pushes its way into parks and patios and parking lots
It considers itself popular and flaunts itself immodestly through every cable and fiberoptic point.

It is unmoved by "normal," ongoing pain.
People are still grieving leukemia, miscarriages, car accidents, divorces and domestic violence...
(to name a very few)
Heaped upon it is the burdening sadness of COVID-19´s violent attacks,
Its indiscriminate seizing of lovely people.
It is especially ugly among the defenseless & in areas already scarred
by war & poverty & complex displacement.

BUT -

It is as yet unaware of the upsurge of goodness in the face of selfishness
It is not acquainted with the god-like efforts of caregivers & medical personnel
It is so self-focused that it is blind to the heroic creativity of parents in small apartments
of the super powers of little ones in their imaginations against this great beast
It is veiled from noticing the undying concern of educators for their students´ good
It is masked from the power of the unity of applause at 8 pm.
It is deaf and dumb in the presence of songs & art, poetry & homemade crafts
All created (albeit innocently) for its very destruction.

People are reflecting about their lives, even making changes
Journals are filling and tears are streaming
Families are conversing, couples are snuggling, teens are coming out of their bedrooms
Yes, it is true that the imposed closeness is stirring up things from dark places, too.
Grief, depression, irritability, impatience, lack of discipline, past hurts
But there is time now to take a second look, to pull back from a reaction
to ask for or to extend forgiveness
And it is making us tenacious, resilient & steady -
All those who choose to be.

There are thousands of variations of challenges for different ones
But there is also opportunity
There is a myriad of tests & trials & valleys for all
But there are also crossroads for any who are willing to change course
Simple everyday things are transformed into altars, crosses, compasses, stars & sacred encounters
God is speaking and people are listening
God is moving and people are making room
God is healing and people are receiving
God is present and people are being transformed.

This virus will fall into its own apathetic trap
and its evil will be crushed in regret.
Those who are willing to believe
in everyday altars, crosses, compasses, stars & sacred encounters
will triumph in spite of death tolls, for death has no sting to them.






Photo by: Bhailey Resident

Monday, April 13, 2020

AFTER ALL THIS



After all this time,
all these years,
all the pain
and all the tears
I´m still here.

After agony of loss
and shock and disbelief
After years of missing
and aching and restructuring
I´m still here.

Still here trying to write
Still here creating laments
Still here because grief is still real,
Still here because it keeps changing,
throwing me off my game.
Still here because I´ve nowhere else to go...

After relapses and seasons
valleys and waves
After anger and bargaining,
spirals and pain and feeling lost,
I´m still here.

After darkness and candleless nights,
sad holidays and lost identity
After arguments and setbacks
recesses and repercussions,
I´m still here.

After two steps forward and three back
one person up and three down
or any other combination thereof,
there is no sense of healing for all,
no harmony or peace or the happiness of before.

Where are those days?
Why must they be gone just because she is gone?
Why can´t we move on?
Why can´t we all be well at once?

What has happened to my life,
to our life?
Nothing looks the same to me.
A most precious thing has been taken from me -
the very faith of my children.
As if losing Jenna wasn´t enough!
All I wanted was for them to see and love you like I...
But I have not been able to protect their beliefs, their worldview
Somehow in the midst of the years of grief,
they decided You were not real.
I have failed.
I am devastated.
How could I not protect them in the midst of such pain and vulnerability?

Five plus years later and I am still a mess
So many emotions and so little capacity
So inward focused, so unpredictable
I long to be stable,
to be healthy...
But I am struggling to hold it together.

I have questions and doubts
we have so much love (thank God)
yet faith is gone, it is no longer central;
We all felt the division at Easter...
It split us in two
And I am grieving this loss.

Jenna would have understood me
She would have known without a word
She would have sensed it and made sense of it for me.
She was special that way.

Somehow COVID has stirred up old stuff
I thought things were better
Yet I struggle to sleep and to stay calm
my health announces that my body is grieving;
I don´t  know how I am anymore.

Oh please bring my children home to You!
Bring them back to your love!
I cannot live this way in defeat
letting the enemy have his way
Please break through
please triumph
please be God to them again.

I know the seeds are there,
The years of love and stories (real ones),
of insights and prayers,
of true love and belief;
of transformation...
they beat in my heart
And echo through the corridors of many years.

After all this
I am still here.
You are my love
where else would I go?
You alone have the words of life;
please breathe them over us all.
Breathe them over all the pain, the tears and the years...
For after all this,
I am still here.




Photo by:  Claudia Dea






Wednesday, April 8, 2020

THE RACE SET OUT FOR ME (repeat)



With big thanks to Ralph Anderson
for helping me reflect on these verses.


¨And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us...¨  
Hebrews 12:1




I have been entrusted with a race.
It is uniquely mine.
No one else can run it for me.
No one is competing with me for it.
I go at my own pace...
The pace he has given me capacity for.
I run in my own style...
The style he has created me for.

Sometimes it doesn´t look pretty.
Races have many stages, many stations.
My race sometimes has detours.
Sometimes it has a roadblock.
At times there are others cheering me on
And other times there are long stretches of desert loneliness.

I like it best when I can see others running their race nearby.
We don´t follow the same course
Nor do we all finish at the same time...
Yet we are headed to the same finish line!
I love that.
We run unique races yet the same One calls us.

But some days I wish I could run someone else´s race.
Their´s may look easier or more fruitful or even more fun.
But then who would run my race?
The one I have been entrusted with?
No one else can run for me.
No one else can run it in the way that I can.
And He has created each of us to display certain aspects of Him.
We each carry that privilege, that trust.

I have been entrusted with a race.
I am not sure why mine has been riddled with so much sadness.
Yet there has also been fragrant & beautiful fruit.
I don´t want anyone to miss seeing His amazing grace in grief.
I don´t want anyone to miss seeing hope in loss.
I don´t want anyone to miss seeing His display of love on me.
So I keep on running.

I have run for Him throughout the years,
Through continents, creative kingdom work,
Through pouring into others, through blessing, through hardship.
There have been many curves & plenty of love-hills.
And it has sometimes been very, very hard.
Those are days to ¨consider Him,¨
Those are days to fix my eyes on the finish line,
Those are days to look for the Pioneer of Faith.
So that I´ll keep on running the race...
The one marked out for me.

I have been entrusted with a race.
It is uniquely mine.
No one else can run it for me.
I will run, walk and even crawl to get to that finish line.
I want others to see His uniqueness in me,
I want to hear ¨well done,¨
I want to see Him.
That is why I run
This race marked out for me.




¨Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.¨
Heb. 12:2

¨Consider him...so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.¨ 
Heb. 12:3






Monday, April 6, 2020

ARE YOU SICK OF MY GRIEF?





"He was...a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."  

Isaiah 53:3



Are you sick of my grief?
Sick of hearing about it, reading about it?
Maybe you think it´s taking an awfully long time for me to recover.
Maybe you just want to see me be well again.
Maybe you´re worried about my kids or my marriage.
Maybe you think I should have been through ¨those stages¨ already.

Or maybe grief makes you uncomfortable.

Maybe you just don´t understand grief.
Especially grief after the loss of a child.
Especially ¨compounded grief.¨*
Or maybe you think Christians should ¨do better at it.¨
Maybe you think I should ¨do better at it.¨
Maybe you want me to hurry up.

Are you sick of my grief?
Do you think I should be happier by now?
Get out more often?
Travel with Bruce more?
Be more involved in all kinds of activities?
Have more capacity by now?

You know what?
I´m sick of my grief, too.

But I have learned on this journey
that there is only one way through grief: straight through it.
There are no short cuts.
No one else can do it for me.
I am the only one who can walk this road.

Another thing I have learned on this journey
is that grief never ends - but it does change.
Being intentional about your grief
and the passing of time does help -
but you will always love and miss that person...
and the memories of them will last a lifetime.

I have been very intentional
And I have been honest with God and others.
I have experienced a lot of healing.
I am not the same person I was.
Nor is any one else in my family.
We are all still trying to figure out who we are.

I have had ups and downs.
I have experienced the proverbial
two steps forward, three steps back
more times than I can count.
I have rolled with all kinds of grief waves
And been swept up in tsunamis.

Yet there has also been beauty discovered
in unexpected places and ways.
There has been love received
that I have not known before.
And there has been hope present
in spite of much darkness.

Everyone says, ¨it takes time.¨
And they´re right.
A lot more time than you think.

So if you're sick of my grief, know this:
grief is love without a place to land.
Deep grief is commensurate with deep love.

My grief only finds a place in the arms of the One
who loved me first and
who knows all these things.
He is not sick of my grief.
He is patient, compassionate and loving.
He is counseling and shepherding me through this journey.
I trust the pace He sets and the places He takes me to.
This Man of Sorrows has entered fully into mine
and I will forever be grateful.

So please trust this process with me;
trust Jesus and I as we walk it together.






"He was...a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."  

Isaiah 53:3


"He has sent me (Jesus) to bind up the brokenhearted...
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve..."

from Is. 61:1-3




*Compounded grief refers to multiple losses in a short period of time.
TheGriefJourney.org


Photo by: Sharon Brogran