Against my wishes, I often find myself walking alongside a dear one who is suffering. As a great avoider of conflict and discomfort, just saying that this is not my forte seems like a puny statement.

Suffering does not always mean physical pain. In this case it involves failure, sadness, mental illness, and reaping the results of poor choices. It equally involves skewed childhood memories, some acknowledged truthfully and others exaggerated by raw and broken emotions.

It is no fun. I often think it looks like picking up a dull knife and ripping your abdomen open. “Stuff” spews out. It’s messy, it stinks, some of the “stuff” is important to your survival, and the rest needs to be disposed of, buried deep or burned to ashes.

And it hurts. It’s pain beyond imagining. But not all pain and suffering are evil. Some suffering is necessary, like giving birth to yourself..a new and more whole person, because the garbage inside that is poisoning you has been ripped out.

We can never be equal to this task. It is only the Spirit of God holding us together that keeps us standing and listening and loving. God alone gets any credit earned. Never us.

I pray each day for God to hold me in a steady line. I need God’s hand on my words, my thoughts, and my emotions. I must be “immovable” in the eye of this storm.

God has never failed to guide me. Thanks be to God.


Give Us Strength for the “In-Between”

Lord we thank you for the your daily blessings, we are overwhelmed by your mercy and grace, but we still get lost here some days, in the “in-between.”  We know you have led us here to this very day, this very moment, this very path, these very people, and yet we still feel lost sometimes.  It isn’t that we doubt you, it isn’t that we cannot look ahead, it is just that we are feeling uncertain in our steps, afraid of stumbling and losing our way.

Take away our doubts and fears, give us strength for the journey.  Refill us with your assurance that we are headed in the right direction.  Fill us with your strength, guide our feet, guard our hearts, and lead us always toward you.  Amen.

Jumping Down Off Your High Horse

     When you are very young you think you know everything. I think this naivete is a cloak of ignorance that envelopes us so we don’t just quit before our lives even get started. If we are honest, we all wore that “cloak” at some point, before real life intervened, before we landed face first into the muddy messes we created in our lives, before we really knew God’s  forgiveness, or even acknowledged our need for it.
    I remember thinking I knew a lot about life.  What is it about lack of real life experience that gives us that surety, that unflagging judgement, that indefatigable sense of knowing “better?” I’m confessing I was there once, before real life and frequent failure brought me down a few pegs. You know the drill…before you get married you are a total expert about marriage…before the birth of your own children you know oh so much about parenting, like “only bad parents have bad kids,” you know, really insightful things like that. Life teaches, oh how it shapes us and chiseles off our sharp judgements.
     When I was a little girl, our family went to church every Sunday. We had to, my Dad had to preach the sermon and Mom had to direct the choir and teach Sunday School.  Our job was to be quiet, stay clean, and sit still. (It’s harder than it sounds.)
     I remember sitting in the front row of the church choir and reciting the beautiful liturgy of the old Methodist hymnal’ s communion service. There is a line there that to this day, more than fifty years later, still stirs my soul. “I am unworthy to gather the crumbs from beneath your table, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”
     I sat there, week after week, and year after year, not knowing that I had been healed. I was too young to even know I needed healing.
    This year I will be sixty-four. I have been shaped, chiseled, forgiven, and healed. I still have so much work to do. Life knocks us down off that high up place. We know how much we do not know, and it is daunting and humbling.
    But God uses all of it, the good and bad, the triumphs and failures to fashion us for his purposes. And through it all our greatest gift is a brand new perspective, from a new place, far less “sure” of our own strengths, and no longer looking down on those around us.
    We jump on down off our high horses.

When a Tornado Knocks Your “House” Down

Imagine sitting in your house quietly enjoying the beauty of your
surroundings.  You have spent some time here, building a comfortable, healthy, light-filled place, always seeking God’s wisdom and guidance in every room, every wall color…every part of this “place” in which you are living.  Suddenly, without warning, you feel the walls shake, and you are tumbled into darkness, with all the pieces of your “house” lying over you weighing you down into a big dark hole. It’s shocking, and you struggle to breathe, to survive, to comprehend the madness that has hit you, knocking you into a deep, dark place.  It defies reason, there was no warning, no time to prepare, no time for a “Plan B,” no way of saving yourself from the devastation.

In truth, this storm hit the emotional “house” of one very dear to me just last Saturday morning. A strong, healthy, carefully constructed relationship built on seeking God’s will and accepting God’s guidance was suddenly ended, with no warning and no explanation.  Dear One (DO) is in the pit of a big, dark hole, with tons of debris weighing her down, and right now she is trapped under the weight of it.

Clichés are never very useful, and irritating at best, but in spite of storms that crush us and leave us reeling, “life goes on”.  Life infuriatingly continues on the outside of the deep hole.  The temptation to just lie there and give up has a strong pull, but you were never designed to just lie down and quit.  You are a mover, a builder, a dreamer of great dreams…lying down and quitting isn’t in your nature or God’s plan for you and His purposes in your life.

The biggest question is…what now? Because my heart longs for reasons and methods to help this dear one dig out of this, I thought and prayed today about the analogy of DO sitting in the rubble of her destroyed house and these things came to me.

1) Assess the damage.  Can your breathe?  Can you move your body, can you see or feel anything? Just the basics of maintaining your human body must take precedence over anything right now.  It’s like the airlines tell us if a plane is crashing, to “put your own oxygen mask on first.”  You cannot save anyone else if you cannot breathe. You have to eat, rest and continue to keep your body alive in the world.  Nothing good can come if you are not here.

2) Stop and take a look around.  Listen. Can you see or hear anything? Is there any light coming from any source near you? Who else might be stirring around in the rubble?  It might be your children or your closest friends, check and listen to see who is in this with you.

3) When you have figured out that you are still alive…even if you are having trouble believing you are…you have to figure out how to get out of the hole. What do you need to lift and move out of the way?  What is blocking you? There is no way to predict how long this process might take, minutes, days, hours, or weeks…no matter.  You have to keep lifting and climbing.  Listen….there are people outside now calling your name.

4) Before you even try and stand on your feet, get first aide.  Get treatment for your injuries. Recognize and acknowledge your pain and damage.

5) Look any one still trapped in the debris?  If you are unable to help them without further injury, try and have someone else help them.

6) Get good help.  There are pieces and parts of the mess that are worth sorting through and saving. Take each piece and weigh it in your hands in light of the before and after.  Some you need to cling to, and some needs to be left behind.

7) Hang on to your faith.  In spite of the damage, the loss, and the devastation, just keep hanging on. Scream and cry out to god, be angry, express the pain in your writing, and seek solace and comfort.  Your house fell down on you, God gets it.  And in His sovereignty He “allowed” this to happen, but He is not the author of your pain. God’s perfect will does not knock houses down on people.  He doesn’t take away gifts He has given, He doesn’t throw His children into deep, dark holes. You would not knock a house down on your child, and neither would He.

8) Take some time to heal. Grant yourself some grace. I know what works for you, so keep busy, but also acknowledge that this pain will be your companion only for a season.  Let those who love you help you carry it.  Let us hold your heart in our hands, and keep you as safe and cared for as possible.

9) Figure out what cannot be saved from the rubble.  Some things are precious and others need to be left behind in the mess of it all.

10) Take the good stuff left, and rebuild.  This is the hardest step. This one takes time.  It means you have to look forward, and looking forward is impossible when you are in survival mode.  Just try and believe this step is out there ahead of you.

11) Seek wise council, in God, your church, any and all who are gifted in this way.

Just breathe, and keep breathing.