4:34

My son  found a journal I had started some years ago.  It dates back to the time I had my first son, I think though, that it may just apply with any child, anywhere.

    Jolted,  awake, the silence ripped open.  I squint, trying to read the numbers on the clock.  They glare red, 4:34 am.  Inwardly, i groan, pull back the covers that held me in dreams just moments ago.  What started as slight whimpering increases in intensity as time ticks.

I pause, straining my ears to hear if whimper give way to sleep.  No sound, I sigh and relax.  Too late, I waited too long, cries split the stillness, amplified by the hour and its lateness.

Void of glasses or contacts, I stumble toward his room. making a quick pit stop.  I take fifteen quick seconds to myself and will him to wait only a moment to two more.

     Retrieving the bottle left in the warmer from the last go around, I am thankful for 2 items:  the light from the overhead stove and organization.  Without them, cries would soon develop into screams.

I wander into his room and make my way to the crib.  A nightlight given to him by his grandmother shine softly to guide me while a CD his father made plays in the background.  “O Come all Ye Faithful” does not sound so out-of-place at this hour.  I smile faintly.

Wrapped in yellow he flails his arms, waiting for security once again.  He whimpers, then quiets as he sees I am near.  Scooping him in my arms, we travel to the livingroom floor where wet becomes dry and I try to snuggle him once more.

It’s a makeshift cocoon and I figure if he feels safe, he won’t mind so much how the blanket looks as it swaddles him.  Settled in our chair, I cuddle him close, he squirms, anticipating the bottle he is sure is coming,

He sighs as I place it within his reach and I feel his whole body relax.  Eyes grow droopy and his breathing softens, he is at peace.  Sated from this feeding we burp and I rock slowly.  I remind myself to take a mental picture, moments like this are too few.  Head propped on my shoulder, he dozes, I rest my cheek against his and I listen.

The house comes alive at times like these. The ticking of the clock, a lone car drives by, the family dog resettling for a nap all reveal themselves.  Against his cheek I feel the smooth of baby skin, cool to the touch.  A slight movement of my shoulder and I discover he is smiling.   Knowing and seeing this causes my face to erupt in a wide grin, and I am gifted to receive another in return.

     Through the stillness, through the quiet, love transcends communication and my heart bursts.  Without words or eye contact, I know love and it is real.  I feel it in my son’s smile.  Tears well behind my eyes as I offer a silent prayer of thanks, praises, and requests for this little wonder entrusted to my care.  Again, I feel his smile and my heart soars.

     He inspires me, this little miracle.  With a look, a cry, a squeal, or a smile, he turns my world on its end.  Sitting here in the dark, I cease to wonder the time.  I find no longer care about the trivial details.

     In a sigh and a smile, my son captures my heart and claims it for his own. Sniffling back tears, I pat his back, and together; we Rock.

Shalom,

cahl

No Fiddler on My Roof

Whether I like it or not, the holiday season will be upon us in no time.  I have gone into the local Wal Mart (ewwwww) and seen the Christmas decorations up already.  I visited a local plant nursery and part of their morning task was to create some holiday ornaments.  The cashiers and I talked about how in retail after Labor Day they have to run full speed into Halloween then to Christmas.  Talk about a whirlwind of a time crunch.

Watching and listening has me thinking lately.  I decided today that I would visit one of the few traditions I carried from my childhood.  My mother would wake on Sunday morning and put in the fixins for a beef roast meal.  This was our Sunday noon meal and I must say, all of us loved it.  Usually mom would take the potatoes from the pan with the roast and mash them!!!!! I watched as my brothers would mix corn in the mashed potatoes and inwardly cringe as I recoil in shock that someone would dare to MIX their food.    I have a strong aversion to mixing food, or to even have food touching one another on a plate.  Can’t do it.  I have good friends who have watched me take fruit off my plate, separate it, then eat it alphabetically.  OK, maybe a bit OCD.

This meal was a moment where everyone gathered–one of the few.  Whether there was much talking was of little interest.  It was usually my older brother talking to my father or my brothers and I egging each on to misbehave.  The food, the smell, the warmth, the promise of leftovers  always brought a smile to my face.  AAAAAhhhh, leftovers.  Let it be said now that there are certain foods which are better the 2nd or 3rd day. Lasagna, scalloped potatoes, goulash, roast beef,–I could go on, but I think you have the idea.  I knew that meant at least a meal or two would be a break from my usual fare of peanut butter sandwiches.  You have no idea.

I was working on such meal today, reliving how it must have been to put it together.  I added a few more touches:  squash, crescent rolls, and choc cookies–anything to bribe the boys.  I was thinking about the details in such a meal, then remembered that I was never shown that.  I observed and am thankful that I have a good memory for such.  I found my youngest standing next to me, clad in only a fuzzy blanket as he had just taken a mid-morning bath. (I don’t know why)  I was peeling and cutting potatoes and he requested to help me.  I instantly tensed as I tried to remember ever doing that when I was young.  I searched my database and could not recall.  I told him he could help me, but he had to get dressed.  No nekid boys in my kitchen, no matter how cute they are.

He came skipping back and I thought this odd.  All I am doing is peeling potatoes and making them ready to roast.  He wanted to peel, uh not so much.  I struck a deal and let him cut them in half under my supervision.  He jabbered the whole time.  I was confounded.  A meaningless task, and he approached it with such good humor.  I shared with him about how his grandpa would have to peel potatoes in the army and that was probably why he might not like real mashed ones.  (again, I dunno)  Hmmm, sharing history.

That may seem so common for many.  It is uncommon for me.  I will soon hear of great traditions, baking, baking,, and more baking.  Making large meals as a unit, games played, memories shared.  i understand some of that from watching my husband’s family.  They talk of vacations, decades of holiday traditions, memories etched in photos.  Hm. That is all well and good for many many many families.  For mine, there was a different level of focus.

To say that the difference in focus is better or worse is not for me to say.  I cannot recall any specific memories except a pinochle game or 2, and times when we would congregate at a certain aunt’s house for a holiday.  Before long, most of those times had faded and no new traditions were born.  I thought nothing of a need to want this.  I did not know to want it.  Now, I struggle with the fact that I just might want something like that.

My family and I have long ceased any get togethers.  We all have our own families, and most often in-laws receive our attention.  I think of Christmas, and I can tell you day for hour what will happen.  Eve will be at one in-law, morning is family time, my family may stop by if the weather is good and they are able.  It will just be my parents and the kids will be overjoyed to see them.  After an hour or so, weather permitting, they will take their leave and the afternoon will be spent at the other grandma’s house.  There all my husband’s sisters and their children will be present.  I have been around 14 years and it is still foreign to me.  I know the drill, the expectations, still it feels like I am under water, treading, trying to navigate the bottom with a slight view of murky water.

I see the goodies my in-law’s families have made, the handmade and cute little ornaments and decorations.  I have none of that to bring.  I don’t know how.  People speak of trips taken and making special efforts to keep certain traditions alive, I have no reference for that.  I think I want to establish, but I am not sure how to do so.   I am not a crafty girl….in the least.  I have boys, not so keen on cooking and baking and artsy creative stuff.  If they do want to help, what does that look like?  How do you let them help and not make a mess or how do they not drive you nuts in the process with wanting to take over and “help”?  We know they are really not helping, right?

Many will wonder, huh?  No baking, making things together, no special traditions that HAD to be kept, a favorite place that was the ONE place that brought everyone back together?  You HAVE to be joking.

I am not.  There was occassional games, but don’t ask me to play Pictionary.  There were times at the lake where we played all the time, but nothing that had to be followed.  I have memories of a moment or 2, nothing more.  I look at pictures of my husband’s family and the scads that I take of my children as they grow.  One of my children asked me where pictures of me would be.  I told them honestly that was not a priority in my family.  Hard work and doing work well and doing the best you could was valued, which is not all bad.  However, there are no pictures, no record of what we did or how we did it.  I asked my mother the other day what my song was that she used to get me to go to sleep….there was none.  I never thought that would bother me.  It does now, weird, at 39 that bothers me BIG TIME.  What book was read at night?  None.  What favorite stuffed animal or dress or what have you, that I HAD to have?  Dont’ know.  What made me laugh, giggle?  Who knows.

That may not seem like much to wonder about at my age, but as I watched my son today wanting to help cut potatoes, I was aghast at what and how to pass traditions on to them.  How do I pass on recipes, lefse cooking, krumkake, games, stories, AAAAHHHHH?  I know that legacy lies in the stories and traditions we leave behind.  Makes me wonder, if there is little of that in the family I grew up in, what does that say about our legacy?  hm.  Interesting thought.    I just stumbled on that.  Legacy and tradition, it seems that’s where its at…..

What legacy of tradition to leave?

shalom

cahl

Not my Son!

I became a mom about 9 years ago when my oldest son came bounding into the world. After 14 hours of labor, he appeared, stared me straight in the face and made not a sound. He took the room by silent storm as nurses and doctors cooed over him, exclaiming that he was one of the most beautiful babies they had seen. I thought, “Uh, of course you would say that, you HAVE to say that about all kids born.” No, they told me. There is something distinct about this one, they said. Distinct? Well, he certainly made a dramatic entrance. After he was born, the medical staff present busied themselves with me and sent my son upstairs. I knew before they told me, that something was wrong. I could feel it. After he was delivered, there was no pain….there was only peace. I watched the midwife at my feet count the pulse beats and watch pan upon pan fill with red liquid. I knew that I was losing more than a typical birth, all said and done I lost about 2-2 1/2 units of blood. I remember looking at my mother, who was watching me and telling her that all would be just fine. If what I had come into this world to do was to deliver my son, I had done just that. There was an overwhelming calm as I smiled at her, and closed my eyes. It was a moment of warmth, silence, and grace. I do not recall the scurry in the room, the nurses barking at the phone on the wall to bring up an ER tech. I do not remember my mother telling the room that my eyes were closed and my hand limp. All I remember is that for a moment I knew that I had done exactly what I was to do. At that moment, all was right with the world.

How can that be? Your son is upstairs, you are unconscious, on your way to checking out. How can you be at peace with what is happening? Don’t you want to see your son grow up, to teach and mold him, to love him everyday? How can you think this is ok? Fight, fight with all that you are!

Well, at that moment I could not fight, it was not my role to do so. There were others to do that on my behalf, my role was to fight for the life of my son, deliver him, and make sure he was safe. I had done that. There are other mothers out there who are called to do much more than I for their children. It is part of the role and call of a mother.

I think of another mother on this Easter. You see Holy Week has a different feel to me now that I have my own children. There is something so tender and raw about this journey of her Son. I think of Mary, mother of Christ as she watched the progression of events, and I marvel at her. There are times I look at my own sons and giggle as I think of the tirade that Jesus must have put His mother through while He was growing. The absences, the comments, the wandering off for days on end, and the cryptic messages must have driven her to distraction. The pleas of,”mom,can I?” Imagine this boy as a teen, full of knowledge, a yearning for something different, but maybe not able to articulate what it is. Imagine this boy as he questions, struggles, listens to inner voices calling him to something too large for conception; conception larger than what His mother was called to do.

There are moments I understand this woman, this Mother of love and grace. I understand the standing back and watching, praying that the testing of limits her child is doing will keep him safe. I wonder if she listened to his comments with peace or an unsettled feeling? I listen to my oldest talk about what sees and what he hears, it takes my breath away sometimes. He has a level of understanding and perception that floors me. What many of us spend years of education trying to figure out, he explains with a simple twist of his head, a smile, and a shrug of his shoulders. It is exactly what it is, for him there is no need to complicate love, compassion, beauty, and forgiveness. He knows what it looks like, how it feels, and is unafraid to express them in his own words. The wisdom of simply expressed thought, thought that we make confused by barriers, obstacles, and conditions.

I think of this Mother as I watched my children this week. I am careful what I say, how I approach the emotion in these days. While the week begins with great joy and celebration, a parade and cheerful laughing, there are also moments of gut wrenching sadness and loss. Easter week holds the contradiction of all emotions. What must Mary be thinking as she journeys this with her Son. She knows she cannot save him, she has seen the effects of the last three years. Would that she could take this from Him. As a mother, I feel that pain, the knowledge that your child hurts, is anguished and she can do nothing to stop it.

Would that she could join Him in the garden the night before He accepts fate. I imagine she would cradle her Son, rocking him back and forth, letting Him cry out the pain. Her arms would encircle Him, willing the strength that only a mother can provide, praying it would be enough. The tear stained face of her Son must tear at her heart, I can almost hear her railing at the same Father He cries out to in this moment. “WHY!” “Not MY son.” “No, He is YOUR Son.” “I will do what needs to be done.”

Good Friday always dawns cold and dreary for me. The sun may shine, but there is a cloak of darkness which covers my emotions. I watch the clocks, silently ticking away until noon. Thanks to modern day cinema, I can hear the driven nails, see the sprawled arms, feel the weight of the crowd. If I close my eyes I can see the picture clear and the mass of people presses closer and closer to the action. I can see those whom He loves. Mary Magdalene, oh how my heart breaks for her. I see disciples, believers, and brothers already confuserequd and mourning. I see the guards, those who doubt, those who question, and those who hate. In the front, is His Mother. I can picture her Son looking down at her, a mixture of grief, loss, and peace as He does what He is called to do. Feel the agape, unconditional and reverent love this Son has for his mother. Out of the sheer madness and agony of the physical pain comes a love which can only be described as Divine. He looks at John, whom He loves and commands him to watch after His mother. He speaks to His own mother, tears glisten from His eyes as he presents John to His mother. She is not alone. He has ensured her safety, her care, and made clear the path for her love to be continued. AAAAAAhhhhh!!!!…..

The noise continues, the deafening cloud draws the bodies closer, the summit of emotion reached. So many would scream the final line. I hear a quite resignation, a peaceful resolution, the fight is finished–there is no more pain. The whisper may come as loud shouts in the soul, but the eyes close, the hand goes limp, the last breath drawn. She delivered her Son amongst the primal earth and brought Him to this moment years later. She had no ER doctor to call, no final IV jammed into an arm to save. She heard and saw and breathed the last breath right along with her baby boy, her Holy Son. She remains, stays, mourns, and misses this boy made man. Tender hands usher Him down, tending the body, swathing this example of her heart made flesh. What must she think in this moment, how must she feel? How can this Mother believe that tomorrow or the next day will heal this wound?

This woman amazes me. Her love, her unconditional love and fight for her Son drove her to the cross. Drove her to watch, to hear, to clutch at those around her…Her love required her to let Him go. Ow. That hurts. Her love required that she let Him go. She had not hold over Him in this moment, just as she had no hold over Him from birth. A wry smile might play at her lips as she sits with that knowledge days and years later. There must be a quiet peace as she knows that what is done is done. It IS finished, but the next act is about to begin, if only she can wait a day or two. If only…..

I was READY….to quit.

As a little girl I was allergic to EVERYTHING!!!  I mean everything made me sick.  Sugar, milk, citrus, and most spices sent my stomach into fits of pain and bloat.  While all of my classmates celebrated birthdays with great cakes laden with tons of multi colored frosting, I looked longingly at huge slices of cake and tall glasses of ice-cold milk.  Both items would have sent me over the edge and seen me visiting the bathroom each hour.

I snuck it when I was a kid, even retreating to the basement to drink a shot of pure syrup out of the bottle.  I got in major trouble when I was a kid and my parent’s found out, it is a little funnier now that I am older and can picture my sons doing something similar.  I think that most of the time I was not sneaking goods out of some evil plot to undermine my parents, I think I wanted to know what it was like to eat and taste like everyone else.  I got so sick of diet candy, many of which contained some dye or sweetener that I could not stomach either.  The sight of diet pop==TAB cola made me want to yak a good yak.  I had uncles (my uncle walt) especially, who would throw me a treat at special holidays once in a while–usually my mother saw what it was…hours later as I was sick in the toilet.  To say that I was stubborn and unwilling to listen was an understatement.

All through school I watched what I ate, what time I ate, and how much.  I got so sick of peanut butter sandwiches that I cannot stand the sight of them to this day.  Remember they would be only peanut butter no jelly.  My fruit and veggie intake also had to be monitored because too much citrus or too much ruffage caused even more problem. Dry cereal took the place of dry toast, and hot dogs and hamburgers were eaten with no ketchup.  I grew used to this, and sometimes my parents would make something special.  I craved rice with raisins and cinnamon.  Today, I would rather have a meal of “real” food than a bunch of junk,  to eat a donut in the morning is almost unheard of in my world.

After years and years of battling I got pretty good at predicting what I could and could not do.  As I aged and stress levels increased I noticed some other issues arise.  With the more stress, the more intense the pain I carried.  The more worried I became, the more intense and sick I felt.  My stomach became a barometer for what was happening in the environments around me, and for many many years it has been hell.

Tension and stress gave way to acid creeping up my stomach into my throat and I choked back chunks daily.  This got worse and worse until doctors discovered that I could lean over and cause acid and reflux to rear its ugly head.  My first colonoscopy was at 25 when I ended up in the Spencer, IA hospital for a couple of days.   Procedure after procedure I endured…radioactive eggs, barium drinks, more radioactive eggs, CT scans, more endoscopes and colonoscopies than any person should endure.  I endured.

In the last 3 years I have seen almost 20 polyps some of which have been cancerous, many pre-cancerous.  I have awakened at night in pain, refrained from eating because I was in pain, and undergone a laparoscopic nissen and the removal of my gall bladder.  Whatever organ which is not necessary has been removed, except my appendix.   Up until the last month, I believed my life was sentenced to this roller coaster called my stomach.

You see, not so long ago I sat with my adopted file and it spelled out in great detail much of my early life, including how my biological parents interacted with me.  The file described a pre-mature baby who had really bad gastro problems from birth.   The implication was that there was not adequate pre natal care and improper feeding taking place.  There was also mentions of bottles of beer being fed to me as well as bottles of straight formula given to me as a newborn.  This caused so much internal damage that we believe it will take a lifetime to recover-if ever.

Knowing this information, coupled with my track record had me so depressed and downtrodden.  I felt like I would always battle to feel level.  I was ready to quit.  I dreaded every doctor appointment, had seen too many ER visits, and found most pain medicine made me sicker.  I hated get togethers where good food was on display, I ate but within 20 minutes I would be sicker than a dog and regretting that I had eaten.  I lived this way, day in day out for 38 years.

Until now.  I found  a gastroenterologist who told me that he would not stop until he had come to the bottom of the pain (no pun intended).  No one had ever treated me like that before, no one had promised to care for me until the pain was gone.  Every other doctor looked at the symptoms and treated them, making me endure procedure and haphazard guess, none of it alleviated the pain.  I cried at night, dreaded every meal.  Now that I am in a drug test where it appears I have received a drug which has cut down on the pain and other unpleasant side effects, I can think of more than where the closest bathroom is.  I can see beyond the last meal I ate to thinking about how to feel even better.

I did not care, really, until a couple of weeks ago, what my future held.  It felt like each day was more of the same and the colors were always grey and dreary.  Never did I feel like running down the hill, grabbing after the sunshine and laughing.  Today, I feel a bit differently.  I am just under halfway through the drug trial and my pain has decreased from a solid 8 to a 1 or 2 and the number of bathroom visits down from 8-9 to 1 maybe 2.  This is monumental in my world.  This is freeing in my world.

The effects of all the damage may not be gone, I will have to watch the inflammation and scar tissue for the rest of my life.  There will never be a time when I won’t have to have endoscopes and colonoscopies, I will have to watch them carefully–constantly aware.  Today, though I received my next dosages of medicine.  I am more hopeful than I have ever been.  In fact, I made a decent batch of banana bread and am looking forward to eating it.  I want to eat it.  I am thinking about a work-out regime not for 2013, but for me personally.  I want to feel better, I want to feel more physically strong, and if the insides are healing, I want the outside to match.  I want to experience what WHOLE body and soul healing looks and feels like.  For the first time I am willing to consider what tomorrow looks like…I have never lived like that.  I never wanted to think that there would be a tomorrow.  I was ready to quit…to embrace the rest of my life in a dark tunnel where everyday looked exactly like yesterday.

I don’t want to live victim to a past, a present, someone else’s reality, or a pre-conception of things being one way because they have always been that way.  Damage may have been done, but I do not have to exist victimized as a result of other’s actions or inactions.  I can live–I can live healed.  I am not sure what that looks like, but in the days and weeks to come I intend to explore that idea…I invite anyone and everyone to come along on the journey…if you have ideas or comments….please let me know.  Let’s do this together…let’s live this journey together.

Shalom,

cahl.

Open REAL EYES to REALIZE what is before us.

According to a recent Pew poll released on in Oct 2012, the United States has dropped below 50% of the population subscribing to a Protestant faith.  The numbers show that the US is now at 48% down from 53% in 2007.  The largest group to see growth is what researchers call, “The nones.”  A similar report dated October 2012, more than 13 million atheists and agnostics and nearly 33 million claim no particular affiliation.   About 20 percent of U.S. adults say they have no religious affiliation, which is an increase from two decades ago when about 8 percent of people were deemed so-called “nones.” Nones are described as young college students, second career individuals, and those just beginning their families somewhere in their middle 30’s.  Most would claim they have a spiritual faith, but as one man stated, “Saying that you are an atheist no longer carries the stigma that it did in years past. More and more are recognizing that you can be good without a belief in a god.”

This leaves the field wide open in terms of Christian faith.  Instead of shrinking back in disbelief at these statistics, I consider this a wake-up call to action for us whom we call brothers and sisters in the faith.  Colin Hay, musician and lyricist offers these words in opposition to this call to faith and may provide the backdrop for many of the feelings society is facing.

All around is anger
Automatic guns
There’s death in large numbers
No respect for women or our little ones
I tried talking to Jesus
But he just put me on hold
Said he’d been swamped by calls this week
And he could not shake his cold

And still this emptiness persists
Perhaps this is as good as it gets
When you’ve given up the drink and those nasty cigarettes
Now I leave the party early, at least with no regrets
I watch the sun as it comes up, I watch it as it sets
Yeah, this is as good as it gets

Can you feel the desperation, the loss of hope resignation in these words?   If the above poll numbers are true, this is the feeling that our young people are experiencing—believing the present conditions are as good as it gets.

BUT!!!!  We know something different, my brothers and sisters.  WE know a different reality and a more solid truth don’t we?  We know that this is not as good as it gets.

Turn with me to John chapter 14

Jesus said to his disciples, “Don’t be worried! Have faith in God and have faith in me.[a] 2 There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I wouldn’t tell you this, unless it was true. I am going there to prepare a place for each of you. 3 After I have done this, I will come back and take you with me. Then we will be together. 4 You know the way to where I am going.”

5 Thomas said, “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going! How can we know the way?”

6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life!” Jesus answered. “Without me, no one can go to the Father. 7 If you had known me, you would have known the Father. But from now on, you do know him, and you have seen him.”

8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father. That is all we need.”

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

 

There is hope and redemption in those words, I invite us to consider what the Message gives us in further? – paraphrased (might be a better word) translation.

1-4 “Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

5 Thomas said, “Master, we have no idea where you’re going. How do you expect us to know the road?”

6-7 Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him. You’ve even seen him!”

8 Philip said, “Master, show us the Father; then we’ll be content.”

And then we’ll be content.  Ah, there it is.  And THEN, we’ll be content.

Will we be content after a tumultuous election?  Will we be content with a higher paying job or a better car?  Will we be content if more people love us or we add more FRIENDS on our Facebook page?  How about when all the moments of frustration cease?  Will we be content?

What will it take?

It takes the command that Jesus gives us in verse 11.

11 Have faith in me when I say that the Father is one with me and that I am one with the Father. Or else have faith in me simply because of the things I do. 12 I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing. You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.

We become content when we take off the blinders and REALIZE how to look at our world and God’s people with REAL EYES.  That sounds like a tall order, so there is an implicit help given in that command from Jesus.  There is a Spirit (an Advocate) which Jesus promised would always be with us, to empower us to see others as Christ sees them.  WE are not alone, we have power in the Spirit to realize that this is not as good as it gets.  There is more.

There is more heaven here on earth than we allow ourselves to see and hear.  Yet, the louder voices of desperation, rejection, hurt, anger, and hate seem to engulf  our spirits, wanting to fool us into believing this is all there is.  How have we responded?

For some, for the many whom the “nones” are watching, we have embraced the voices of slander, malice, anger, and hatred…creating a hell on earth where we mistrust one another…we operate out of fear instead of the promise that there is more.  We do not serve a God of fear; we serve a God of…redemption, love, and compassion.   I believe that we have forgotten this.

In the non-profit that I work in in Sioux Falls, I have the chance to see in a practical way, the essence of the Spirit moving in places and doing things I could not see otherwise.  I see people coming together in a garden, slinging compost, laughing and building—together.  GROUND WORKS operates out of a mission to practice being a great. does this break off here? …where have we heard this command?

“I tell you for certain that if you have faith in me, you will do the same things that I am doing.  You will do even greater things, now that I am going back to the Father.”

The mission question you ask of yourselves today is answered in that statement.  How do you remain faithful?—by doing the things that Jesus did and practicing the things that Jesus said.

I cannot give you a nice, neat method to perfectly sewing up your faith and keeping it intact.  I would be doing you a huge disservice if I told you that the older you get, the easier it gets.  It doesn’t. I look at my own children, who so easily embrace the world they see and I am amazed at it.  When did my filter become so polluted?

It became polluted when I decided that the world and its opinions means more to me than seeing people for who they really are==as beloved children of Christ.  It became tainted when the voices of the multitudes screaming that getting my own is more important than loving the least, the lost, and the lonely.  It became dirty when I embraced the belief that poverty is shameful and those who are impoverished are somehow less than me.

Have we forgotten that we are all poor and that the poor in spirit inherit the kingdom of heaven?  When did poverty become a 4-letter word meaning something that we eliminate or cut out of our society?  When did following Christ mean that I have the right to sit in judgment over anyone for any reason?

It didn’t.

When I asked my former seminary professor how to write a sermon a number of years ago, he smiled at me and said, “Go, look in the mirror and ask that person what they need to hear.  What does she most need to hear and what does she need to see the most today.  When you are quiet and allow the Spirit to convict you, the message will come to you.  That is the offering you bring-no more no less.”

See, I told you it does not get any easier, the older that you become.  It gets harder to force out the ingrained methods of thought and deed to be present in the Spirit and to do the things that Jesus did.

Ok, so what did Jesus do?  A couple of years ago, I served my first unit of Chaplaincy at Avera Behavioral in Sioux Falls.  I worked over 1000 hours journeying with children, teens, men, and women living in the midst of hell.  I heard their stories and the Lord revealed something during that time.  It is a mantra that I believe is at the heart of all that we say and do.

People want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  Let me repeat that.  We want to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved.  And the third time is the charm—I want to be seen, to be heard, to be loved.

If we take that principle and the command that Jesus gives us –to remain faithful we do the things that Jesus did, the rest becomes pretty clear.  So, what did Jesus do?

Jesus showed up.  At a well, in a garden, on a sea, on the road, and in the home, Jesus was present.

Jesus saw.  He saw the diseased, the forgotten, slandered, abused, and mistaken.  He saw them for what they are==beloved and blessed children of HIS Father, he saw them as brothers and sisters of great potential and light and love.  He saw them for what they could be instead of what the world was telling them they are.

Jesus heard.  He listened to the words of the heart, the ones we keep hidden and he responded.  He heard the stories from people desperately wanting healing, to those empowered to simply touch his cloak, he heard and embraced their humanity and spoke to them in it—not content to allow the lies of the world to fill their heads, he came to deliver a promise of something sweeter—something more divine.

Jesus loved.  Pure and simple.  There is no other act of love than to see us through REAL EYES and REALIZE the way to save us would be to die—to give up his own humanity so that we might believe and do the things he did and follow the things he said.

Sounds like pretty easy application, right?  So, you’re saying if we show up, see, hear, and love===all the rest will take care of itself….RIGHT!!!!!

To do this requires more of you and me than we initially believe.  It requires all of us.  The song that you heard this morning as we were walking in speaks to this.

I am the only one to blame for this
Somehow it all ends up the same
Soaring on the wings of selfish pride
I flew too high and like Icarus I collide
With a world I try so hard to leave behind
To rid myself of all but love
to give and die

Where are we in this?  Where have we given in to selfish pride, to arrogant love of self and what we can do?  Where have we forgotten the ultimate sacrifice of love covers the world’s hurts than any amount of money or man power can?  When did we begin believing that we alone can do anything?

Do we really want to do the things that Jesus did?  Do we really want to see people with REAL EYES and realize them as precious human being that a Savior loved enough to give up His own life?  Do we really want to hear their voices and to love with the same love that Jesus loves us.  Do we even want to admit that Jesus loves “them” with the same fervor and passionate love that He lavishes on us….we are the chosen ones, aren’t we?

In the gardens in Sioux Falls, Jesus has shown us Himself.  A couple of weeks ago a young 13 year old girl who resides at the Children’s Home Society came to a catered meal and took center stage to share a poem about what a garden means to her.  She talked of a seed being planted and
watching it grow.  She talked of a place where she can go when the entire world is happening around her.  She said, that (a garden) is, “A place that needs me to stay alive.”

Does she realize that she is the seed- that place of great potential and opportunity?  Does she see herself as the seed in need of care and love and growth?  Does she know that Jesus can be the place where she can run and hide a place to go when sad or glad?  Does she know that Jesus needs and wants her to stay alive==that HE desires for her to live and BE alive—to be seen, to be heard, and to be loved?

Do we know the same?

Do we know that to be faithful means to believe that GOD wants to see us, to hear us, and to love us?  Do we believe that to realize that promise means that we are to see with Real eyes the world around us, and we are to respond.  We are to love with the heart of Christ and to do that we have to adopt the heart of Christ.

We have to see with the eyes of Christ, eyes that see beyond poll numbers, political affiliations, social and economic strife to the heart of each individual person…to recognize that their soul is to be cared for and loved==just like ours.

We have to hear the words that are said and to those unspoken.  We have to listen beyond the rhetoric and the pat and easy responses we give on a daily basis.  We must hear their stories, to hold those stories, and to honor them as precious…after we have heard them—really heard them we can hear how beautifully our stories intersect with one another.  We have incredible impact==we have the chance to turn the tide toward Heaven instead of Hell.

We have to love with the love of Christ; fierce and on fire and smoldering and peaceful all at the same time.  A love which consumes all the darkness and forces light into the hate and drives it away.  A love that embraces poverty as desirable because it means we are in the presence of the Risen Savior.  A love which knows no limit to compassion-knows that no amount of money or power or control can take the place of being held and seen and heard and loved.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us not grow weary in the race set before us, my same seminary professor has become a life mentor to me and reminds me often that what we are doing is a Marathon, not a Sprint.  This is not a race that has an out the gate running start or an ability to maintain that pace for the duration.  It is a marathon of building of seeing with REAL EYES what we can REALIZE in Christ.

I end with an adaptation of the Jars of Clay lyrics you heard earlier.  May this be the prayer to remain Faithful—doing the things that Jesus did, in the manner in which He did them.
We look beyond the empty cross
forgetting what our life has cost
and wipe away the crimson stains
and dull the nails that still remain
More and more We need you now,
we owe you more each passing hour
the battle between grace and pride
we gave up not so long ago
So steal our heart and take the pain
and wash the feet and cleanse our pride
take the selfish, take the weak,
and all the things we cannot hide
take the beauty, take our tears
the sin-soaked heart and make them yours
take our world all apart
take it now, take it now
and serve the ones that we despise
speak the words we can’t deny
watch the world we used to love
fall to dust and thrown away

Take our world apart.

Come, Sit Awhile

Cuddle:   The sniffles come and along with it are the chills, the sore throat, the runny nose, and the body aches.  If we are lucky, it is also a rainy and windy period in late fall or early winter, where the weather cooperates with the body in mass conspiracy to make us feel even worse.  No matter the age or the independent streak we possess, there is one thought that rises to the surface.  “I wan…

t my mom.” Sometimes, in the law of events, a trio of watershed moments crash in to claim us.  Many comment that heart breaking situations tend to happen in three’s.  They seem to snowball, collecting more momentum and energy as time continues.  While we try to avert it’s hurtling avalanche and keep ourselves centered, sometimes the impact threatens more impact than we would like.  Our blankets, loving arms, and the chance to simply let go rank higher than anything else in those times, and again the same response rings clear, “I want my mom.” That desire we have to climb into safe and secure arms, to rest our heads on strong shoulders, to be held in a way that tells us that we are taken care of  is more valuable than any amount of money.  We yearn to be cuddled and kept close to those who chose to love us no matter the circumstance.  When we are low or sick, exhausted, spent, and overwhelmed—we want our mommies.  We want to be wrapped tight, with a light hand on the side of our face, running through our hair, or rubbing our backs.  We want to sink into the loving cuddle of someone who wants nothing from us.  What a relief that that provides.   There are some, unfortunately, who do not have that chance.  There are children who go through their childhood not able to climb into those laps and rest their head.  There are adults who miss that chance as well, or chose to section themselves from warm embrace, a kind word or a moment to let go and cuddle and be cuddled.  Yet, the desire for that human connection does not wane the older we become, in fact, it increases.  A loving smile, knowing that someone will grasp our hand in welcome or empathy, the arm about the shoulders, all of it is necessary if we are to grow as the children we are.   We are beloved children, whose Abba parent begs us to climb into a loving lap and let go.  This Creator knows that we need physical contact which fills us and somehow makes the crazy wind and rain of life seem a little less ominous.  Our eternal parent wants to smooth back the worried brows and cuddle us close, letting us know that no matter how tired, exhausted, and overwhelmed we feel, there is One who remains ready to embrace us.    That is a legacy of love that has been in place before any of us drew our first breath and remains a promise that envelops us, even when we breathe our last.  It is a promise that One bigger than all of humanity stands ready to embrace all that we are, all that we become, and all that we encounter.  This Creator understands and hears the heart cry, “I just want my mom,” and wants desperately to provide that safe place of refuge.  If only we will cry aloud what we need and what we want.  If only. I will be glad and rejoice in your love, for you saw my affliction and knew the anguish of my soul. Psalm 31:6-

Pomp Your Circumstance

Begin:   Looking out amongst the crowded gymnasium one can sense the excitement of a generation about to take their first steps into the world.  Clad in caps and gowns, with messages lovingly taped to the top, making sure the tassel is in the right place, we can feel their anticipation.  Young ladies cast an eye down to the single flower given them by a loved one.  The boys jostle one another, …

too much pent up energy to vocalize what they are thinking.  It’s easier to punch each other than to tell someone how they feel.  Questions loom in the air, “will we see each other again?  Is this really it?  Where do we go from here?  Did we really make it?  What do we do now?” Can you hear them?  The nervous laughter, the louder than normal jokes about home room giving way to their lining up one last time.  The music swells, the Pomp and Circumstance we know so well.  It is the end of an era; the beginning of another.   The beginning, what is that?  How do we begin?  What is the beginning if this moment is the end?   We watch as the next generation of young dreamers’ file down the aisle, some choking back tears, others stifling a laugh or two.  They learned to line up this way years ago when kindergarten meant tying shoes and nap time.  Today they line up and take the walk one last time, journeying into their unknown, to begin again.     Our thoughts and dreams give way to action; a new era ushers in a chance to begin and to lean into a state of reinvention.   Watershed moments bring us to the ends of ourselves, to the foot of the cross, to the end, and a chance to begin again.  There are many who can relate to being called to begin.  Moses was commissioned to lead a people to freedom, to be the voice of redemption, to begin a movement.  Joseph saw visions in dreams, suffered terrible scrutiny from family members, lived through the betrayal of his brothers, and was called to begin a legacy.  Mary began a relationship with a carpenter, brought forth a child, thus beginning a new covenant of grace and peace. We are also asked to begin, to initiate goodness, peace, and compassion for one another.  The means in which we start the process does not and cannot look the same.    The beauty of the process of beginning is that is must look different because the road we journey is as individual as snowflakes that fall.  Being a people who can introduce one another to love and kindness is perhaps one of the highest callings we undertake.  Sometimes it is scary to begin a journey towards something unknown.  The voices of reason scream at us, questioning our resolve, the talent we possess, the practicality of a dream so dear.  Yet, we can begin that journey with a small step, knowing that if done with a pure heart and honest motivation, there is little we cannot accomplish.  Our Creator knows this and wants our success more than we can imagine.  This benevolent Maker infuses us with all the means necessary to entertain those dreams and desires, the desire is there for us to take the steps in faith, to begin the task of being.  With the excitement of a young graduate we can embrace the exhilaration of another new journey and a moment steeped in beginning. “‘I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me.’ Acts 26:16-18

Hey Death, BITE me!

BITE is out tonight.  it is dedicated to a wonderful woman of God who has taught me more about living than anyone I know.

 

Bite:

There is a certain sleepy South Dakota town which lies just off the Interstate 29 and most people would miss the jewel that it is unless you drive off the main road, stop awhile, and take up residence.  It is the kind of town where groups of farmers congregate in shifts at the local gas station and receive coffee refills for 75 cents and where kids appear in your backyard simply because they know your son or daughter and they want to play outside after school.  Many would choose not to settle here, opting for larger cities or something closer to bigger shopping and malls.  There is really nothing outstanding that would set this town apart from most small town rural America, nothing except its commitment to its residents.

In this town on a particular fall evening the local Legion Hall was bustling with music blaring down Main Street.  Streams of people milling in and out of the building made one wonder what sort of hoodlum party was taking place, grass skirts and coconuts litter the sidewalk.  Cars are parked diagonal and through the middle of the street as we see kids, teens, moms and dads accompanied by grandmas and grandpas filter into the hall.

Holding court, in a gaily colored leu is the reason they have all gathered.  In every way it looks like the Pacific islands have come to play for an evening.  Dancing, music, laughter, and more food than one can imagine line tables.  Succulent ribs and racks of bar b que are flanked by baked beans and one whole table is covered with slabs of cake with inch thick whipped frosting.  There is joy and conversation and youth alive in this space, and that is exactly how the guest of honor wants it.

She has come home to this little town on the prairie to live out her remaining days, a young woman with a body riddled with cancer, but a spirit which knows only grace and love unconditional.  Not yet thirty, she has fought the better part of her twenties with a disease that wants to claim her, she won’t let it.  She approaches it with a bite of grit and good humor and the kind of work ethic one imagines of a South Dakota raised woman.  There is nothing fleeting or wimpy about this woman, this warrior of mercy and forgiveness.

Yes of course, she would love to bite back at this wretched illness and kick its butt to the curb, and she has put up a valiant fight, so much that the townspeople would gladly take it from her.  She has mirrored for the younger teens in band how to hold their heads up with humble pride and dignity, never shirking from what her instinct told her she must do.  She has fought and in the process has shown each of us what it means to join the journey with someone, no matter how crappy the road ahead appears.

Time is running low for our girl and while we would all will every ounce of youth and health and strength to her, she has shown us how to let go and how to accept a fate that hurts.  She is honest in her ordeal, real in admitting that sometimes the pain has been too much to handle, that the road has not always looked pretty.  Yet, she has become even more beautiful as her life comes full circle.  Tonight residents poured out in droves to love on one of their own, she is beloved to them, to all who know her.  Her desire was to spend her last moments with her family, surrounded by support and the agape love she has come to know from her Creator.  As she prepares to say goodbye to her earthly family, she is aware of the eternal family waiting to embrace her.  Again, she teaches us with quiet grace what moving toward eternity looks like.  She demonstrates the sweet Spirit of Holy listening and resilient resolve.

“I want to be home, and that’s where I am going.”  Welcome home to our lovely young woman, an example of Psalms which tells us that death no longer has a sting, no longer has a bite.  She has embraced the essence of living and the Promise of eternity awaits her and we are better children of God for having shared her journey.

 

1 Corinthians 15:54-56

The Message (MSG)

51-57 But let me tell you something wonderful, a mystery I’ll probably never fully understand. We’re not all going to die—but we are all going to be changed. You hear a blast to end all blasts from a trumpet, and in the time that you look up and blink your eyes—it’s over. On signal from that trumpet from heaven, the dead will be up and out of their graves, beyond the reach of death, never to die again. At the same moment and in the same way, we’ll all be changed.

Bushwhacked

Bushwhacked

What began as a friendly game of capture the flag amongst the neighborhood kids quickly turned a new direction as the older children took control.  The majority of them had played together in the same backyard for years, coming home to toss their bags in the house and run to the sanctuary of play.  Aside from the occasional argument over whose turn it was next, they gave and took turns and blows with general good humor.  The motley group of boys and girls ranged in ages and the bigger kids looked out for the little ones and parents young and old agreed that this was a great group of young people.

Lately, though there seemed to be a shift in attitude, as though with the onset of middle school the invisible lines were drawn and camps created.  Today the innocent game seemed to have a frenzied sense to it, as though there were an undercurrent running that no adult would be able to see or feel.  The hits a bit harder, the barbs a bit more cutting, tackles that were meant for touch only sound more violent, harsh.  Then the words, the comments riddle the air.

“Take that one, freak!  You’re going down tonight; I’ll make you wish you were like the rest of us.”

“I told you not to talk to me when I’m at that table with the rest of the gang; you’re not one of us.  Get that through your head.  You’re not welcome there.”

“Gawd, no!  I will never walk into that dance with you!  Dude, what is wrong with you!”

The barrage of complaints rain down on their fellow neighborhood player.  Where yesterday they traded “who’s your mama” jokes, today the jokes are replaced by hate and threats.  The ambush of rage spewed forth, these young teens choosing to bushwhack one of their own, to make them pay for something beyond their control.

“Hey, step off; I haven’t done anything to you!  What is your deal?  All I did was wave your way in the lunch line, is that a friggin’ crime?  You’ve only spent whole weeks at my house and vacationed with my family every summer.”

“You are a freak!  Get this through your head; you made your choice when you decided to “come out.”  You knew what would happen, man, you coulda rode the high all the way through school, and you had to declare who you are so the whole damn world would know.  You don’t think people wonder about me?  Man, you’re so dense!  It’d be better if you’d just transfer or just… Ah, hell.  I’m outta here.”

He took the rest of the group with him, leaving one alone, bushwhacked, bombarded, and beaten.  Maybe it would be better to transfer or, there are other options.  Yah, there are always other options, there is always another choice.

The hate, where do we learn it?  When does the familiar companionship of a neighboring game of tag become something sinister?  What motivates us to turn against each other so easily?  The blows of a tackle may heal and the bruises fade, but the words and the intentions remain.  Those don’t lose impact and can do far more damage than any broken bone or wounded ego.  The tapes play for a lifetime, shaping ideas of identity and limiting potential.  How unaware of the impact we have on one another.

The Creator looks at each of us with joy and love, unconditionally.  Where we see a flaw or imperfection, or a different way of behaving in the world, God sees pure perfection and potential.  All of creation is embraced with a love that knows no bounds, no barriers, and nothing can separate any of us from that perfect love.  It does not matter who we love, how we love, what we have done, said, or left undone; we are called and claimed as beloved children.  In that moment of conflict in the backyard, the love for every one of those kids overflowed from the Creator, the same love covered each of them and will continue to cover them no matter what happens tomorrow.  That unconditional and fierce love covers each of us, no matter the age, experience, past, present, or future.   That is an impact which can move mountains and tame even the most hateful tongues.  The impact of steadfast love now and forever holds true.

“If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world’s terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God’s terms and no longer on the world’s terms, the world is going to hate you.
John 15:17-19

I embark

I have put aside the autobiography for a time to work on something which has captured my attention as of late.  I am choosing 3 verbs from the English language beginning with A and ending with Z and writing a devotional idea to go with it.  Devotional can be no longer than 1 page and must tie biblically.  Here are the first 3 attempts.

Accentuate

“Accentuate the positive!”  The words ring out as shrilly as the platinum blonde bleached into her hair.  She punches the air, making sure the staccato beat of her platform heels is in perfect time.  She knows that to fool the masses, you have to make them look beyond what is really there.  Any good performer hones that skill from birth and to make a director’s head turn, you do what you can to make yourself stand out from the crowd and that is just what she is teaching these young ladies today.

“Backs straight, head held high, suck in the gut; never-ever reveal a weakness.”  The young ladies, all dozen of them hold their 9 year old heads a little higher and look down the line at one another, making sure they are just a bit straighter, a tad taller.  At the end of the line is a quiet brunette of slight frame, angelic demeanor, and quiet strength.  Instead of casting a glance down the line, she straightens a bit taller, closes her eyes and begins mouthing something to herself.

Perhaps it’s the litany of “Backs straight, head high, never a weakness.”  Maybe she can Ac-cen-tu-ate  pos-i-tive as she practices plies at the barre.  Whatever the reason, there is an assured look on her face, one of almost pure joy, in stark contrast to the other girls’ grimace of agony.  Madame’s pitch creeps higher and her heels pick up pace even faster.  Sweat breaks out on many faces and she screeches to wipe it off, “never let a judge see you as human.  You are more than human; you are super human—act like it!  20 more minutes!”

Up and down the line Madame shrieks louder and she stops dead in front of our quiet one and demands to know why she is smiling.  “You look like you are clueless, that is no way to push yourself to the top.  Always standing there, smug and quiet, you are so infuriating!  Why are you like that?  You know you will never rise to the top of the class and be a star without the killer instinct.  Rise higher, reach further, push, push, push.”

“I have been taught that our world looks at the outer package. We judge each other on how we dress, walk, talk, and how we attractive we are. I know in my heart that what is seen on the inside is more important than how I look on the outside to others.    I am of more worth than all the fake nails or high heels in the world.  The Creator of the Universe sees to the core of who I am, not who I pretend to be or what a director may think is acceptable for a show.  I tell myself each day I am here to accentuate the inside gold, not the outside fake.  That Creator gazes at you in that way too, Madame.  Accentuate your inside gold.  Push to the inner recess of your heart, accentuate that pure gold.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The Message (MSG)

7 But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”

Adopt

They stare out from their secured cages, brought in on trucks or in cars.  They have been found on the streets, rummaging through garbage bins, wandering fields on their own, or a family finds they cannot support them any longer.  Whatever the reason, they watch the doorways, listen for footsteps, hope for a loving young girl or boy they can shower with love.  Maybe this group will be my forever home, maybe they will adopt me and make me part of their family.

Tails wag, mouths hang open, and barks escape as they paw at the metal fencing.  Dancing on all fours they hop up and down in anticipation.  “Pick me!  Pick me!”  Can you hear them?  “Please, please.  This is special adoption weekend.  Can you find a place in your home, your heart? Won’t you adopt me?  Chose me?”

The eyes tell the stories of some of them, the lives they have lived, and their past-the solitude of their journeys.  In compelling compassion they lock contact with you, gazing at you, begging in silence to deliver them for their present reality.   Feel the joyful energy coursing through them as you click a leash on their collar, interested enough to try for a walk around the facility.  See the prideful way they pick up their head, walk through the door and out into the sunshine.  Imagine the relief when they can call corner in your room home.

We don’t need to sit in cages and wait for a special weekend to be picked.  Our place at the table has already been set, it is waiting for us.  We have been adopted, ushered into a family without constraints, without ridicule, absent of cold or loneliness.  It is a place where we belong no matter how scrappy we look or how many miles we have traveled.  There is peaceful and comforting warmth which envelops us, if we are brave enough to embrace it.  The beauty of being adopted into this family is that it is royal.  We become sons and daughters of a King, a King of such radical love; we are incapable of describing it.  Our brothers and sisters of times past, present, and all future have also been adopted into the royal family.  The house is teeming with all ages, stages, hopes, dreams, and stories and all are accepted at the table.  There is always enough, more than enough of all that we dream.  There is more love than we can imagine, always more forgiveness, always.  There is no need to make ourselves noticed so that we will be chosen; we have been seen from the beginning-the adoption papers signed.  We belong just as we are, blameless and wonderfully created to love one another.  Imagine the joy in our Creator’s gaze as another brother or sister understands the comfort of waiting arms and runs to join the celebration already happening.

The celebration of your accepted invitation to be part of a whole family, anxious to know you, care for you, and love you; just as you are.  Come and rest.  Your searching is over and now you can breathe the sigh of relief, confident that you are where you belong.  It is a pleasure to welcome you home my brother, my sister, my friend.

But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
1 Peter 2:8-10

Advocate

In the education circles the letters, IEP carry special significance.  Those parents whose children are on one also know the importance of those letters; they mean regular meetings, constant evaluations, and incessant conversations with teachers, administration, parents, and students.  Sometimes it seems a rat race of connections until that glimmer of hope peaks through a haze of confusion.  The onslaught of verbiage that only educationally trained people speaks.  Wading through the paperwork appears to be never-ending, as does the guilt that gnaws at the back of the mind.  “Am I the reason they have trouble reading?  Do I do something that makes it impossible for them to concentrate in school?  Are they doing this on purpose?  Who will know I failed?”

For the student, they are oblivious to the world of special education or an Individualized Education Plan.  All they may be aware is that some subjects in school may be more difficult than others, or that their attention span seems to tank around 2 o’clock in the afternoon.  They are unaware of the countless hours that moms, dads, grandparents, or other family members sacrifice in order to help them succeed.  A bag is magically packed and ready for the next day, homework is never tackled alone, and someone is always watching out for them.  They have no idea the conversations that take place over the phone, internet, or in person.  They never see the tears fall as their loved ones try every day to make today a bit easier than yesterday; never do they hear the inner voices screaming at those family members that this deficit is their fault-as if it could be blamed on someone or something.

While they remain unconscious to those moments, they are also naïve to the cheerleading and work that is done on their behalf.  Within mountains of paperwork and conversation and evaluation are people who are pulling for the success of that student.  They will join forces and stand strong to do whatever is necessary for that young person.  It may be as simple as helping to read for an extra half hour after supper, or as involved as assisting them in every area of life.  Whatever the case, the support exists and remains strong.

There are times though, when the hours are long for those fighting, when a blissful night off seems like the perfect respite.  Moments when the fight wares on the soul and the plea to be let off the hook feels like it falls on deaf ears.  There is One who hears, however.  One who chooses to stand in the midst of the fight and advocates on our behalf.        There is a constant who decided in the beginning that each life lived was worth the struggle and climbs into it with us, who will spend the extra moments in quiet prayer or tempered promotion.  The Creator who set all the stars in heaven believes that we are worth more than all creation combined and does not hesitate to enter our world and join us in whatever we may encounter.  Nothing is too large, no darkness too bleak, no amount of red tape and paperwork too daunting for the One who experienced life in all its mountain top and valley moments.   What appears overwhelming for us is a chance for the Creator to fight for and protect the beloved.  Like a mama bear protecting her cubs, we are fiercely loved and fiercely supported, by an advocate who continues to advocate on our behalf.

“As soon as Babylon’s seventy years are up and not a day before, I’ll show up and take care of you as I promised and bring you back home. I know what I’m doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.
Jeremiah 29:9-11

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