All that’s left for us to do is this

 

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When life is complicated –

and it is…

When people are hurting -

and they are…

When questions overwhelm -

and they do…

All that’s left for us to do is this: GIVE THANKS.

I’ll admit, it seems counter-intuitive, this expressing of gratitude when all seems lost and we are tempted to despair over the state of our world and our own small lives.

Yes, things are a mess.

But to collapse in a heap would mean missing the everyday miracles God is performing all around us, the hopeful evidence that He has not left our sides, no matter how grim things appear. Choosing to give thanks calls to mind the ways that indeed, He is crafting our redemption and is worthy of all honor.

I find the following simple prayer of Scottish author William Barclay to be prescriptive and healing for “such a time as this”, a gentle reminder of how blessed we are in this one aspect: that we love and are loved.

I give you thanks, O God, for those who mean so much to me —

Those to whom I can go at any time.

Those with whom I can talk and keep nothing back,

knowing that they will not laugh at my dreams or

my failures.

Those in whose presence it is easier to be good.

Those who by their warning have held me back from

mistakes I might have made.

Above all, I thank you for Jesus Christ, Lord of my heart

and Savior of my soul, in whose Name I offer this

thanksgiving.

With each line of this prayer, a face (sometimes more than one) comes to mind: someone who has been a gift to me in exactly the way described.

Even as I acknowledge there is much that needs to be healed – in me and in the world around me – I am overwhelmed by the generosity of God toward me through His gift of community . . . and ultimately, through the gift of His Son.

May you, too, be made aware of the immeasurable blessings you’ve been given and be moved to genuine gratitude this Thanksgiving.

~~~~~~~~~~

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He’d probably be surprised that I still remember this

My dad was behind his desk hard at work when I walked into his office that day after junior high. At the sound of my voice his face softened into a smile and he looked up.

The order of that was especially meaningful to me:

He smiled.

And then he looked up.

To my young heart, that said he had welcomed me even before he made eye contact with me.  In that moment, I felt secure and valued by my dad; I knew he was glad to receive me and was interested to hear whatever I had to say. All these years later, I can still see his reaction in my mind and feel the love in that gesture. (He probably wouldn’t think there was anything remarkable about it; that was just his way.)

This morning that memory flooded back to me when I read this verse in the Psalms:

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Continue reading

I Don’t Remember Saying This

As I rounded the corner last week, I happened upon my neighbor unloading groceries in her driveway. We engaged in some idle chat and for whatever reason, she reminded me of something I had said to her when she was diagnosed with cancer ten or so years ago.

The day I heard of her health struggles, I stopped by to deliver a meal to her family on my way home from work. She specifically recalls me reassuring her during that visit that, “Everything will be okay.”

IMG_5786I said that? What in the world was I thinking? That was kind of a happy-clappy thing to say. Looking back, it seems downright presumptuous.

Thankfully, my friend derived comfort from my words then and apparently still values them today.

And I don’t even remember saying it.

By God’s mercy, everything did turn out okay. There was surgery, chemo, and all the miserable stuff that goes along with it, but she eventually went into remission and continues to live her life with contagious joy.

I started thinking: That forgotten comment at least had a happy ending. How many other things have I said along the way that didn’t have such a positive result?    

~~~~~~~~~

I thought of another instance, a few years earlier, when my words had a much less desirable outcome. In this case, I remember what I said, it’s just that at the time I failed to consider how it would be taken in by a very tender heart. Continue reading

It Will Not Be Enough

IMG_5491Exactly one week from today, I will wake up at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, having hiked down a steep 8 miles or so the day before. I did this hike two years ago but I expect to be surprised and delighted in new ways this time around.

I already know:

  • I’ll be stiff from what amounts to a controlled fall down craggy South Kaibab and ever-so-thankful for the right gear and the months of training.
  • I’ll be grateful for the rich companionship of my fellow hikers that is unique to an experience like this.
  • I’ll be impressed as always by the untamed wildness and inherent danger of this beautiful place.
  • I’ll be stunned anew by nature’s multiple mood swings, often visible all at once across the sweeping panorama.
  • I’ll be reminded of my own smallness and comparative insignificance amid such enormity.
  • And I’ll be inspired to private worship and whispered prayers of gratitude.

And I also know this: None of it will be enough. Continue reading

Revisiting the Dog-Eared Days

When I was in school, we weren’t allowed to fold down the corners of any pages in the textbooks we were assigned or mark them up in any way.

Folding the page corners gave the book permanent creases, we were told, and made it look tattered, even abused. Since the school had to make them last, our teachers sternly warned against careless or rough treatment.

Just to be sure we complied, our names were recorded next to some identifying number for these particular books and we were warned we’d have to pay for any damage – other than “normal wear and tear” – if we defaced them. The same applied to library books.

So at the beginning of each school year, my sister and I could be found cross-legged on the family room floor, dutifully fashioning protective covers for those textbooks out of paper grocery bags.

Truthfully, I always liked getting a book that already had a little mileage on it. It told me that someone before me had found parts of it useful and suggested perhaps I would, too. At a minimum, it told me I could probably use the book without freaking out if I dropped it or spilled something on it.

IMG_5431These days, if I feel like dog-earing one of my books, I do it freely (I know, that’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to some – don’t judge). I fold the page corners to help me find the passages I want to return to, even if it means the book now has flaws that would disqualify it from being resold. The places I’ve marked lead me back to what strikes me as memorable.

Frankly, if the book is interesting enough for me to want to refer back to it, I’m not likely to want to part with it anyway. If I’ve borrowed someone else’s book, I’ve been known to return it and then buy my own copy just so I can crease and highlight to my heart’s content.  Continue reading

What Putting “Legs” to Your Love Looks Like

For some strange reason, the phrase “loving well” keeps popping up for me lately. Just in the last few days, a writer I deeply respect used it in a blog post, my pastor prayed for it in a prayer service, and a friend wished IMG_1769for it in a conversation.

So I find myself wondering: what distinguishes loving well from – well, “just” loving?

As I try to nail down the distinction, I think of the people in my life who I would say love well and I ask myself, “What makes him/her come to mind?”

Yes, they put others’ needs above their own, certainly they allow themselves to be vulnerable in relationships, and no doubt they consistently strive to communicate clearly.

But here are some other characteristics that set them apart: Continue reading

The Giant Kid at the Bus Stop

yellow school busDo you remember junior high? Sorry, I know that was a painful question. We all remember those days (and not necessarily in a good way).

Here’s the thing: Where my house is located, I have a front row seat to the on-going pre-teen drama at the junior high bus stop . . . and frequent flashbacks of my own to that dreadful era:

  • How could I forget the kid with the unfortunate first name of Orville? No doubt his parents intended to honor some beloved relative by giving him that name. But Orville? He paid dearly for his parents’ choice to hang that one on him.
  • There was the overly tall, awkward guy everyone in the seventh grade called “Slow Monroe” and then snickered as though he couldn’t hear them. I hope he ended up a CEO somewhere.
  • I still remember Ellen in Mr. Hunter’s math class. She used too much Coppertone QT over the weekend and came to school with her face orange. Even the teacher had a field day at her expense. I’m not sure she ever lived it down.

Continue reading

The Lesson in the Peeling Wallpaper

 

Peeling Hand Stenciled WallpaperEarly on in my single parenting years, I bought a fixer-upper house in a charming neighborhood full of young families with kids. A few short months after moving in, I joined a singles group at my new church.

I don’t know what made me do such a thing. I mean, the house was an investment and a way of bringing stability to a wobbly life. That part made sense.

But the singles group?

It sure wasn’t because I needed more to do. I was working an all-consuming, often dangerous job that required me to be on call 24/7. And now I had a house in dire need of TLC, a lawn to mow, a temperamental car to nudge along, and a not quite 3-year old to raise on my own.

But for whatever reason, I decided to give the “kickoff” singles event a whirl. I hired a babysitter and then went into image-management mode. I wanted to project the together, professional vibe; to give off a self-sufficient, polished air. I couldn’t have people knowing how hectic and chaotic my life really was. Continue reading

When This Is the First Prayer of the Day

metal_anchorchain_chain_665878_hSome days are just hard. Then another one comes along just like it. Then another. And before you know it, they’re stringing together like the links of a heavy chain and you’re dragging the weight around, exhausted and discouraged and maybe a little (or a lot) angry at the unfairness of it all.

When I start to feel that heaviness,  I find myself waking up well before daybreak and whispering, “God, please let today be better”. It isn’t a plea grounded in hope, as in I know God is with me and will make all things work together for good if only I will believe. No, usually it’s more of a desperate, I give up, I’m drowning here. I’m at Your mercy.

It’s not a time I need a sermon or a theological explanation about God’s grand designs for humanity and what a small part of it all my tiny life is. It’s true the big picture of human history is infinitely vast and knowable only to an all-powerful God. And it’s true I can trust Him to take care of me in the larger context of eternity.

But when I’m in pain or exhausted from too much drama and the frustrations of life, you know what I need? Continue reading

Floating in a Sea of Icebergs

People are complicated. I’m sure that’s not news to you.

I think about my own life and the image I always try to project: polished, confident, intelligent. You know the drill.

icebergs - Alaskan Dude Flickr
Photo by Alaskan Dude, Flickr.com

But I’m an iceberg and so are you.

There’s what we let other people see, and then there are all those other layers and dimensions we keep below the surface: our past, our weaknesses, our fears. To be seen as who we aspire to be requires that those aspects of who we are remain hidden. But all that other “stuff” is still there below the surface.

Being in relationship with each other – unless we keep it strictly superficial – is going to be tricky, maybe even dangerous. We’re sure to bump up against each other and those layers we didn’t know were there for others will bruise us, while ours will bloody them.

The loss of comedic great Robin Williams this week really drove this point home to me. Here was a guy who brought so much joy and laughter to his audiences and seemed to always have a funny retort and positive outlook.

I think I could have been friends with him if our worlds had intersected in some way. No doubt I am not alone in that. He was a rare presence.

But he is quoted as having once said, Continue reading

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