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Rushing River

imagePerched atop a weather worn balcony, my gaze sweeps the views afforded by the Arkansas River valley.  Surrounded on every side by mountains, the prairie splays wide between–a broad swath of sun kissed grasses and gray-green sagebrush.  Barbed wire fences zig zag across the landscape and disappear somewhere in the distance where plains and mountains merge.  And the rush of the river below creates a duet with the black capped chickadees darting from one pine branch to another.

I pause…inhaling the calm of this place–a welcome respite from the clamoring sounds of suburbia.

 

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I’m struck by the river as it hurries by–always moving toward something unknown…the promise of what lies around the next bend luring it away from the beauty of its here and now.  And in its incessant winding and wending, I wonder if the river ever pauses long enough just to notice.

But maybe it’s my life I’m really considering–how quickly time moves and twenty years young suddenly becomes forty and now I am my parents while my children have become me.  And like ripples across the river’s surface, my face has begun to wear life’s lines and the days rush by.

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I wonder… In all of the busyness–does my life make a difference?  I pray that even in my smallness God will show Himself large…that these worn mother’s hands will willingly do the work of laundry and dishes and tucking into bed with the tenderness of  the Heavenly Father and that simple words shared on a page will remind you, dear Friend, that the Word is eternal.  He stands strong in the rushing waters–even walks on them–with his hands extended toward you.

No matter how rapid the current and despite the busyness flooding our lives, let’s hold onto the one who leads us beside still waters. (Psalm 23)

 

In the sheltered simplicity of the first days after a
baby is born, one sees again the magical closed circle, the miraculous sense of
two people existing only for each other. 
-Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I thought I understood love–it’s complexity, depth, and vulnerability.  Then I had children and all of my preconceived notions about love were shattered.  Blossoming in their place like a seedling receiving its first drops of water, a pure, true love sprang up.  Tender.  Unselfish.  Sacrificial.

It was a love strong enough to urge a sleep-deprived mother out of bed during the black hours of the night to comfort a colicky infant; a love tender enough to encourage a mother to stay for endless hours in the NICU singing softly to the baby struggling to for every breath; and a love dedicated enough to stretch and exercise her son’s twisted feet despite his cries of pain.

I thought I understood love–then I had a Savior.  Tender.  Unselfish.  Sacrificial.

His was a love merciful enough to offer forgiveness to a lost and lonely child; a love tender enough to be a Father when she was without hers; and a love sacrificial enough to give his life in her stead.

Parenting is the closest I’ve come to experiencing the sort of love He has for us.  Real love.

Live Like You Believe

Each one of these people of faith died not yet having in hand what was promised, but still believing. How did they do it? They saw it way off in the distance, waved their greeting, and accepted the fact that they were transients in this world. People who live this way make it plain that they are looking for their true home. If they were homesick for the old country, they could have gone back any time they wanted. But they were after a far better country than that—heaven country. You can see why God is so proud of them, and has a City waiting for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

“Do something radical this week–live like you believe.”  There were some nods, nudges, and Amens  before God’s people bowed their heads for a final prayer.  Help me live like I believe.  

Then I remember yesterday’s stroll in the orange and yellow dappled woods outside of Divide.  The children were on a journey of discovery…Mom, look at this!  But my mind had been captured by the struggles of a dear one and I wondered–even shook my fist– at a world bursting with beauty and struggle, joy and grief, blessing and affliction.

Separating from my family, I lay beneath the aspen trees.  The sounds of father, boy, and girl slowly give way to the rustle of raindrop-shaped leaves. And I grieved over the young man–praying, hoping, wishing for more for him.  More living. More loving. More of the Lord.   But, the prayers have been slow to be answered and I think of the contrast between the two trees I see raising their arms to heaven.

One stands tall–its patterned bark and amber colored leaves offering tribute to the Artist.  An arm width’s distance away, another aspen stands –blackened patches and burn scars testifying to a lightening strike.  There are no leaves.  No signs of vitality.  But its roots dig deep into the   life- giving earth and it awaits the quickening of a new day.  A day of restoration…renewal…redemption.

Just by being, we bear the scars of the world.  But, dear friend, God proves Himself greater…more powerful…and true to His promises. The risen-Christ is living proof.

 Lord,help us live like we believe!

Scripture for Reflection

I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: “Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone.” The Enthroned continued, “Look! I’m making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate.”   (Rev. 21:3-5)

One in Six

He meant well.  They shouldn’t spend much time together.  She has a disorder–bipolar.  I winced when I heard the words because he didn’t know about us.  We understand the stigma…the struggle…the pain swelling on the inside–but still unseen.

Church….Christian…Pastor–there is already shame poured hot like coal on the one who suffers from the burden of festering pain.  And the one in six people in your midst clutches her own secret close to her chest–afraid to let you see her brokenness.  Or, perhaps, she fears revealing the truth about a husband or a child.  If she did would you whisper, “He’s depressed. Maybe your daughter shouldn’t spend time with him.”  Would you judge her?  If she believed more…prayed more…trusted more then God would heal the wound.

So when a friend condemns anti-depressants as a crutch but implores the Hurting to pray for faith, there is a problem in the Body because the Jesus I know came to heal the sick.  The Jesus I know came to remove the burden of a fallen world from the shoulders of those bent beneath its weight.  And the Jesus I know understands that mental illness is like any other–You, dear one, didn’t cause it.

There is no guilt in your struggle, dear one, just as there is no guilt with the one who has cancer.  Church, the one in six ask you to be Jesus today.

Speak truth.  The Church is the place for the suffering.

Love like Christ.  It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 

Give grace.  The nails in the tree set us free from the wounds of this world.  Our Today’s are for His glory.

And it is by grace we are saved!

Standing on the outside, looking in…the screen joins bold color with life as sharp as glass.  I can’t bear the pain in the cries of women mourning over bleeding children as smoke from the rockets spreads across cities.  Still,  the truth of those lives…that reality…that brokenness cannot be hidden in the grey and black of destruction.

And then, I turn the channel.  My stomach recoils at the world’s mess and I wonder when He will make it right.

Standing on the outside, looking in…the familiar sound of her voice travels from one tower to another and I smile at her German practicality.  My dear auntie has cancer–again–and I feel heat and tears mingle as I glance into the corners of her life.  I can see them, though she has quietly swept them into a forgotten corner–fear of the unknown…a sense of aloneness…the looming question of  ‘Why’?

In a moment, there is only the hum of the dial tone and my heart aches for the trial she–and so many others–battle until they fade away.

Standing on the inside, looking out…I begin to feel the hard edges of the day tear at the tender places of hope, joy, and peace.  And  I am reminded that this world, this reality, and these trials are temporary.

Dear one, He is doing more than we can know or even imagine.  One glorious day, Christ will return and this world will know the true Peace Maker.

And even now, when we can no longer rely on our bodies for health or our loved ones for understanding, He is with us.  He never leaves us.  He always understands the ‘Why’.  And His strength remains forever..even as we fade.

If the hidden places in your life and mine are full of grief, emotional or physical pain, or misgivings about the shattered world around us then let them shout for His mercy and restoration in a “thirsty and weary land” that we might see His boundless glory displayed in our small lives.

 

Mother Holding Child's HandI always wanted to change the world.  When I was younger and more of an idealist, I considered the Peace Corp.  Then, I explored social work and psychology.  Maybe I’d make a difference if  I could rescue families from difficult circumstances or offer words of encouragement.

What was my God-assignment?  How could I make a difference in a world like this?

I realize now that my God-assignment can change from that of stay-at-home mom to preschool director to writer–and a I am always responsible for what God has assigned for me to do.  Nothing more; nothing less.

In my own strength, I am too small to take on every assignment.  But through His power and leading, I can impact someone’s life for the better.

What is your God-assignment?  What is He leading you to do today?

You could be the one person to console a hurting friend…offer a word of prayer for a wayward teen…provide a meal for a single parent.

What is your God -assignment?  I don’t know the details, but God does.

When each of us fulfills His work according to His will, then we make a difference–sometimes an eternal one.

 

Scripture for Reflection

“Dear brothers and sisters, what’s the use of saying you have faith if you don’t prove it by your actions?  That kind of faith can’t save anyone.  Suppose you see a brother or sister who needs food or clothing and you say, “Well, goodbye and God bless you; stay warm and eat well”–but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing.  What good does that do?  (James 2:14-16, NLT)

 

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Ephesians 2:10, RSVP)

With You Always

It’s been a challenging, up-and-down, I-don’t-think-we-can-get-through-this sort of year.  As I read through my blog posts, notes, and emails my heart rate increases and a sense of apprehension settles over me.  remind myself–aloud–God has been with you through it all.

God was with me when I learned one child had been abused.

God was with me when another child was diagnosed with a life-long illness.

And before that?

God was with me when my husband was deployed in Afghanistan and I was raising four children at home.

God was with me when my daughter was born prematurely and then had to be resuscitated.

One heart wrenching, faith growing, I-don’t-like-this-plan-Lord sort of year.  Before that?  One year of struggle…another of joy.  Time kept moving, bringing with it moments of joy, celebration, grief, and sadness.  And through it all I was never alone.  

Maybe you are experiencing a challenging, up-and-down, I-don’t-think-I-can-get-through-this sort of year…or month…or moment.

Friend, remember!  “I (God) will never leave you nor forsake you, for (He) is with you always even unto the end of the age.  (Matthew 28:20)

 

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