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Monday, April 25, 2011

The Most Terrifying Prayer

It is a simple, two-word prayer. It should be easy enough to utter. It should roll off the tongue willingly. It should be the first thing we say each morning. It should bring us peace.

Instead, it sticks in my throat. It hesitates on my tongue. It comes to me each morning but I want to put a condition with it - follow it with a "But..."  It does not bring me peace, rather, it inflicts terror in the very heart of me.  A simple, two-word prayer...

"Use me."

It is a prayer I desperately want to say and mean it with all my heart and soul (I think). I want to be a servant of God, a worker in God's vineyard, a gatekeeper in God's temple...and every other metaphor and analogy the bible offers me...but...

"Use me" hitches in my throat. I can almost say it convincingly and with power...almost. Yet each time I manage to get them out of my mouth I dread what God will say next.  I fear what God will ask me to do. I worry what God will ask of me that might bring suffering, horror, heartbreak, pain, controversy...

But then I feel the fear and terror melting away in the embrace of the Holy Spirit, my great comforter and promise of God.  "Those are things of this world...I am here to lift you above that."  This world will inflict those things upon us but when we pray for God to "use us," that is when those worldly hurts and sufferings are overcome.

We tend to fear what God will ask us to do but does the real fear not lie in trying to do this life without God? Yes, when I pray "use me," I am inviting God to place someone unlovable in my life to move me out of my comfort zone and into a combat risk my own life in a fight for justice for someone damage my popularity for the sake of Christ's.  When I pray "use me," I am giving up control and letting God take over.  Yes, that terrifies me...and yet...

I cling to Acts 1:4, "wait there for the promise of the father."  What is that promise? The Holy Spirit. God's Spirit which dwells within those who believe.  I cling to those stories which remind us of the power available to us when the Holy Spirit is given control of our lives.

Yes, "use me" can be terrifying words to utter...and yet how can we not say them? The world needs God, not me...the world needs a Messiah, not a follower who won't give up control.  The promise of God is that the Holy Spirit will come upon us and give us all we need in answer to that "use me" prayer. All the boldness we need for conflict and controversy, all the strength we need for pain and suffering, all the wisdom we need for justice and forgiveness.  It is all ours, if we pray one simple, two-word prayer...

"Use me."

Friday, April 22, 2011

Tears from Heaven

This morning, some of the followers of Jesus gathered along a busy roadway. Around a cross we gathered and heard again the passion story.  As the story reached its Jesus breathed his last...the first of a few gentle rain drops fell.  As the cross was hoisted upon the shoulders of the followers, the others fell into a somber and silent line. Slowly, we began to walk down the street - following the cross. The gentle tears from heaven fell softly upon our faces.

This scene never ceases to move me to tears. Even on those Good Friday's when the sun is shining and the day is warm, I feel the goosebumps and chill of pain as we take this journey. Today the sun is hidden and the air is chill with rain drops falling gently and sporadically upon us as we walk. It is a journey I have taken in three different towns over the past 16 years, but this year feels different.

In the past I have been moved by the pain Jesus must have felt, the humility, the defeat, the rejection... the heartbreak.  But today the pain of this walk took on a new meaning for me. Perhaps it comes from having shed so many of my own tears of grief this year but suddenly I realized that pain isn't just about is also about love.

There is no doubt that when Jesus carried the cross to his death he felt all those things I had imagined before (pain, humility, defeat, and rejection), but...what made that walk possible was love.  If Jesus hadn't loved all the children of his Father, our God - he wouldn't have been on this journey at all.  As my own tears fell I thought about watching my own children grieve during their heavy losses this year. I remember hating so bad to see them hurt and yet finding comfort in knowing that their tears showed that my children knew how to love well - for only out of great love could separation hurt so bad.

As we neared the end of our journey the rain fell in a heavy downpour, as if the heavens couldn't hold it's grief any longer. In a pouring rain we bowed our heads and said a prayer.  My heart is full and my tears are no longer for sorrow - they are instead praise and thanksgiving for God's love.

The journey to the cross did have pain...but it was first and foremost a journey of love.

Monday, April 18, 2011

1...2...3...RED LIGHT!!

Did you ever play that childhood game? It was one of our favorite in the cool mountain evenings of summer. One person (It) turns their back to the other children who are lined up some distance away. Then "It" begins to count...1...2...3...and then yells "Red Light" as they whip around and try to catch someone in motion.  Those in line are trying to take as many steps as they can toward "It" while he/she is counting but when they hear "Red Light" they must freeze before "It" turns and catches them.  If "It" sees you move you must return to the beginning - but if you can manage to freeze every time then you will eventually sneak up and tag "It" and win the game.

Let's be honest, as Christians we are told conflicting messages - "Go therefore..." and "Be still and know..."  Do I go? Do I be still? Sometimes it feels like we are caught up in a cosmic game of 1...2...3...Red light - trying not to get caught moving when we should be still and yet still expected to get somewhere!!  It can be quite difficult to navigate at times can't it?  Listening to God seems to be a fine balance in knowing when to move and when to stay still - knowing when to go fast and when to proceed with caution.  So how do we navigate the playing field with skill?

John 14:15-31 details the promise of the Holy Spirit: "...and he will give you another Advocate, to be with your forever....the Advocate will teach you everything..."

The Holy Spirit is indeed our greatest Advocate and teacher in knowing just when to "Go" and just when to "Be Still."  There are times when the Spirit drives us forward in boldness and courage.  There are times when the Spirit gently tip-toes us through a situation. There are also times, and honestly I find these the hardest, when the Spirit says "Be still, sit down, and watch me work."  Yes, that is the hardest because honestly, we humans would really rather keep control of things ourselves wouldn't we? And yet, in those glorious and amazing moments when I obey and simply sit still - I am awed by what God does.  Somehow, even in following the command to "be still," we are moved forward to victory - for we have obeyed and followed God's will.

Too often Christians have neglected the power of the Advocate in our daily lives. This is a shame since the Holy Spirit was promised to us by God and sent to us for a purpose - to help us "Go" and "Be Still."  The Holy Spirit is the one who abides in us and directs our steps as we follow God's will. The Spirit is the one who whispers to us when we pray and provides the words and answers we need to go on. To ignore the Spirit is to ignore the part of God that abides in us. And when we ignore the Spirit? Well, that is when we get caught moving when we should have stood still - and we end up back at the beginning, having made no progress at all.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Eye of the Storm

 All the paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness... (Psalm 25:10)

Several years ago I had the opportunity to fly to San Francisco for a long weekend. Up until that trip I had never flown before, I can't say I'm a big fan. But I will never forget the flight home for as long as I live. When we left San Francisco it was cold, rainy and foggy - yes, very surprising since near as I could tell from my one weekend there, it is usually...well...cold, rainy and foggy. As soon as we started taxiing down the runway I pulled my book out of my bag and started to read - there was nothing to see out the window but rain and fog.  But not very long into the flight the cabin was suddenly filled with a brilliant light. Startled from my book I looked out upon one of the most breathtaking sights I have ever seen.  A Brilliant blue sky above and below - the most incredible, white, fluffy mountain of clouds for as far as the eye could see. I was literally awe struck at this sight.  How could I forget that just because it is raining on the ground doesn't mean the foul weather extends all the way to the heavens - there is, after all, sunshine above the clouds.

Today I had a similar revelation while driving down the road.  We have severe storms all day and in between cells, I ran out to the store.  Suddenly I noticed up ahead a sunny spot in the road, when I looked up I saw that for just the briefest moment the clouds had parted and there was a beautiful round hole - past the dark rain clouds was visible a wall of white fluffy beauty and when you looked up further a gorgeous glimpse of blue sky. Then just as quickly as it developed, it was gone. 

Up until that moment I had been having a sad day...not a bad day, I just felt sad over a lot of things. But seeing that and being reminded of San Francisco awoke something in me.  It reminded me that no matter what is happening on the surface of my life - there is one thing that is sure and unchanging and that is God's love for me.  No matter how much rain may fall upon me, no matter the storms that come or the sadness and dreariness that mark some seasons - the light of Christ, the warmth of the Son, the love of God, the clearness of God's mercy and goodness are a constant.  I may not be able to see them, cloaked as they are behind a curtain of rain - but that doesn't mean they aren't there...they are always there.  I may have to wait out the storm, or travel a little higher and a little longer to find it...but it will always be there...waiting to warm me, nurture me, love me, welcome me, cheer me, forgive me, redeem me.

In the midst of the storm look for the eye, gaze upward and see that the perfect sunshine and beauty are still is God.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Prayer To Be Swept Away

A few years ago my family took a road trip to Canada. Of course no road trip to Canada is complete without a stopover in Niagara Falls. Now, I'm a mountain girl and  I believe I have visited every waterfall in North Carolina, some are impressive...some not so much...but I have enjoyed all of them. None of them have been traumatic for me...until I met Niagara.

My palms are already starting to sweat as I type this. I will never forget my first glimpse of the water - I had been looking at a map or book or something and not paying attention, so when Tim pulled the car into a parking lot and I looked up there, just a few short feet in front of me, was a RAGING river. I had, at that moment, the first panic attack of my life. I felt like I couldn't breath, my palms were sweating, my heart was pounding and all I remember saying is, "How can there be no fence or handrails? What is wrong with these people?" All this before I could even see the falls, we were still upstream!!

I wouldn't allow anyone out of the car and made Tim get back onto the road to take us into Canada immediately - I had to get downstream so I could breath again.  Sure enough I felt better there, until we walked right to the edge of the water. Again, the shear power of the water literally took my breath. There is no withstanding water like this - you fall in and you are totally at its mercy - totally out of control.

Today my Psalm meditation was Psalm 93: "The floods have lifted up, O Lord...more majestic than the thunders of mighty waters, more majestic than the waves of the sea, majestic on high is the name of the Lord."  I was immediately drawn back to the edge of Niagara Falls, realizing that as all powerful and mighty as that water seemed - I worship a God which more powerful and mighty than that.

O to be swept up in the raging power of God's will - to be washed away and totally at his mercy and control. What seems terrifying in the destructive flood of water seems glorious in the life giving springs of God.  Can you imagine being caught up in the holy current of God's purpose, love, goodness and glory? To leave behind the burden of trying to be all and do all ourselves but instead, to let God sweep us into his will and direct our destination and life?

Take me with you Father! The floods have lifted up - lift me too. The floods have lift their voice - hear mine also. The floods lift up their roar - let my roar be a witness to the power and might of God. Wash me away in your love and power, sweep me along the current of your will.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Was I Going To Say?

"Holy One, there is something I wanted to tell you,
but there has been errands to run, bills to pay, meetings to attend, washing to do...
and I forget what it is I wanted to say to you,
and forget what I am about or why.
O God, don't forget me please, for the sake of Jesus Christ"
(attributed to a poem by Ted Loder)

There used to be a popular television commercial showing a housewife going about a hectic, but probably typical, day.  The dog is barking, the doorbell is ringing, the baby is crying, the chores are waiting and finally she can take it no more and she looks to the heavens and cries - "Calgon! Take me away!"  And the next scene is our harried housewife is now relaxed and smiling in a tub brimming with Calgon bubble bath. She is saved.  Wouldn't it be nice to have such salvation in a bottle?

In the season of Lent, Christians are expected to spend time getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. We are called to deny our busy-ness and instead be still before God - find peaceful, quiet solitude with God and listen as He speaks.  It doesn't sound like it should be hard...until you try it. Commitment to daily scripture reading, prayer time, meditation and contemplation are essential to deepening our relationship with God - and one would think that if it is essential it would be easier for us to accomplish - until you try.

There are always errands to run, bills to pay, meetings to attend, washing to do...and before you even get a grip on a new day, it is gone. Soon it is bedtime and you are trying to cram God into the last few minutes of your day...only now you are too tired to listen, to distracted to focus. The poem above is adapted from a poem by Ted Loder - it is a quote I read last night in a book about the importance of seeking God and strengthening our soul in ministry. It really hit home for me - not just for my journey but for all of us as Christians. How often have we tried to fit God into our busy day only to forget what we had to say? 

Salvation in a bottle? No. We have a salvation that is much better than that. It is not the comfort of a bubble bath which will soon turn tepid and unpleasant. It is the lasting, steadfast comfort of a Holy Trinity - Creator, Savior, Advocate. Our busy day will not yield itself to this Holy Trinity - it is up to us to yield ourselves for it.  

As we enter this coming Sunday into the Passion Week, let the Church sit ourselves down in the quiet and let Jesus take us away into a place of reflection, devotion, repentance and redemption. Jesus hasn't forgotten us, let's not forget to spend time with Him.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ode to the Wind

  Is it crazy that I love the wind?
I sit alone - a blue chair upon the green grass,
my eyes closed.
I am kissed ever so gently by the wind.

Breathe deeply.
She carries with her the fragrance of Wisteria.
Just a faint touch
but it is glorious

She brings the sound of a child's conversation.
They walk home together from the bus stop,
she laughs with them.

Her rustle of leaves takes me to a different place,
a different time.
I am alone on a beach, the waves sing to me.

The ebb and flow of an ocean current
are heard now in my backyard.
She beckons me to remember
and relax.

Breathe on me, Breath of God
Breathe on me.
Once she came in a mighty rush
and all were filled with fire and power

Breathe on me, Holy Spirit,
Breathe on me.
She has
She does
She will

Is it crazy that I love the wind?
I think not

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Family Matters

"For you, O God, ... have given me the heritage of those who fear your name."  Psalm 61:5

There is, following death, the dreaded ritual of letting go. Not just of the physical person - but of their physical belongings. It is a difficult thing at best...a stressful and weary one at least.  Suddenly, an entire life is boxed up and stacked into a gathers...items are shared...stories are told...decisions are made.  No matter how much time has gone by, it still feels wrong to be prowling through things that did not belong to feel guilty and greedy - even though you aren't.

Yesterday I read the 61st Psalm and was struck by verse 5. After I read it I laid down my bible and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving to God for my own heritage.  Not only the heritage of faith I have adopted and been grafted into as the bible tells me...but the heritage I come from in my earthly family. I shared thanksgiving for family, both by biology and by marriage, that have shown me more about grace, forgiveness and love than I could ever imagine learning elsewhere.  Thanksgiving that they learned those things by being followers of Christ. Some in better ways than others, but all - even in their failures - teaching me something, setting an example.

Today, round one of the parting ritual is over. And as difficult as it is to carry home some treasured items that a few months ago were not mine to treasure, I look at them with thanksgiving and joy.  They are symbols of that heritage: my husbands baptism gown, a framed photo of Queen Elizabeth (a great story for another day, lol) - not at all worth anything of monetary value - but instead reminders that the great stories of faith will go on...we will retell them...pass them down...and the ritual will continue.

Thank you God for the heritage of those who fear your name - they have done well.

Friday, April 8, 2011

May I Have This Dance?

Recently, my husband and I did something we had talked about doing for over 20 years - we took dance lessons! Shag Lessons to be exact. It was so nice to do something fun together that didn't revolve around children or church (not that there's anything wrong with that).

I've never been a dancer but I figured surely I can do something right? But I didn't expect to have trouble with the most simple of all things...letting my husband lead.  On the first night of class the instructor announced that the first rule of shag was that the man got to lead. I was startled when everyone in the class, and I mean everyone, who knew me turned, looked at me and laughed.  Really? And sure enough, they were right...98% of the time when we mess up it is my fault because I get in his way - trying to take the lead.

In a culture which teaches us all to be strong and dominate over others, I am not alone in my struggle. We are now taught at an early age to "take charge" of our lives, to not let others tell us what to do or push us around.  WE are to lead and get others to follow, that is the rule of the game.  But Shag lessons have forced me to really step away from that teaching. I have to be conscious when I dance of not thinking ahead at what is next - I simply have to wait on my husband to give me direction and I follow. It takes work, concentration and willingness - but when I can let him lead, our dance is smooth, graceful and enjoyable.

How wonderful it would be to take that same lesson and apply it to discipleship. One of the hardest things for a Christian disciple is to let God do the leading. We want to direct the steps of life and determine the next movement. Too often we forget that God is supposed to be the only authority in our lives...he is the one leading...the one directing the steps and movement we take. When we keep trying to lead ourselves we step all over God's plan and will - our dance (our life) will be awkward and halting - more frustration and fulfillment.

If, however, we can keep ourselves in check - if we can remain conscious of not trying to think ahead of where we are going to go - if we can just be still and wait on God's whisper and direction to what we should do - then suddenly our dance (our life) becomes smooth, graceful and, yes, even enjoyable. On the dances I've been able to let go and let my husband have total control - I was relieved to be able to just live in the moment and follow his lead - no pressure, no decisions - just follow.  I can't help but think that with enough practice of following God's lead, I might find the same relief...and peace. All I have to do is let go and let God.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Puppy Love

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.         John 15:12-13

That is me and my pal - Asbury. It is hard to find a greater love on this earth than the love a dog gives its owner. My dog is never in a bad mood, never snaps at me needlessly, never talks back, and never fails to run around in excited circles and leaps when I come home. He is my first welcome after a long hard day.

Today my daughter and I decided to walk around the neighborhood and because she had already taken Asbury on a walk, we left him behind - he is 14 after all.  He soon made it apparent that this was not an appropriate arrangement as he ran back and forth yelping and barking and begging to join us. I should add that he has a wireless fence system which will deliver a mild shock if he ventures too far from our home. (Two good reasons for this: 1 - he eats cats and all our neighbors have cats! 2- he's kind of dumb and tends to run into traffic)

As we came down the road on our second lap around I noticed that he was quiet but he was still running wildly back and forth - only something was different. I watched in amazement as he prepared to run through the wireless fence - he knew he was going to get shocked but you could see it in his face - he had decided it was worth it. And sure enough - it seemed as if he counted to three and just ran!! Right through the invisible line he came, joyfully bounding down the road to greet us. He was one happy puppy.  Needless to say, we let him walk with us the rest of the journey.

Jesus spoke about the kind of love we are to have for one another. A love in which we are willing to lay down our own life for another - or run through an electrically charged fence at least!  A love that says I will go through hurt and risk and danger just to be close to you, just to love you, just to be in relationship with you.  My dog gets it...why is it so hard for the rest of us?  Why is it that those of us who proclaim to follow Christ and his ways have so much trouble with this loving our neighbor section?  

Why would we rather focus on our differences and use them as battering rams to beat one another over the head? Why do we prefer to judge and condemn a book, a church, or a denomination without ever even reading it, going to it, studying it? Why are we constantly seeking to tear down rather than built up? Why do we think we can bully and berate someone into repenting their sin rather than taking the time to love them as Christ does and let God do the work of redeeming and transforming them as He sees fit?

I'm so happy that my dog loves me enough to put his neck on the line to be with me...I'm so awed that my Jesus loves me enough to lay his life down for me...I'm so humbled that I deserve neither of those wonderful things - but I receive them anyway.  It seems wrong to me to take that amazing grace and the sweetest form of love and twist it into something hateful and bitter.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure Jesus warned against it.

We worship a powerful and mighty God who has consistently used saint and sinner alike to achieve his work.  We worship an amazing and miraculous God who had taken the most hardened of sinners and transformed them into the greatest of God's warriors.  We don't want to interfere with that powerful, mighty, amazing and miraculous God. So, why don't we love God, love our neighbor as ourself (even the ones that sin and the ones we don't agree with) - and let God do what God does best - redeem us all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ma and Jesus: Bringing Light into Dark Places

"...the Lord opens the eyes of the blind..."
Psalm 147:8a

My great-grandmother, Della "Ma" Bradley, was a sweet, wonderful woman. When I was in middle school, her husband, "Pa," passed away and Ma was afraid to stay at home by herself. So our family got together and worked out a schedule where each family would take one night a week and stay with her.  Our night was Wednesday, so that afternoon we would pack our stuff up and head two doors down to spend the night with Ma.  Her bedroom had two double beds covered with her hand made quilts...many many hand made quilts, and that is where my sister and I slept.

Yes, I am a good 'ol mountain girl from good 'ol mountain stock.  Ma still cooked on a wood stove, as did both my grandmothers. And when we first started staying there she still had an outhouse - although once the family started staying there it was funny how quickly we suddenly found the time and money to install indoor plumbing.  But, I digress....

Every night when it came time for bed, my sister and I would get tucked into one of my Ma's double beds and she would go through the exact same ritual.  First,  she would walk to the end of the bed to remind us where the "slop pot" was if we needed to "go" in the middle of the night. We always giggled at this and I guess she thought we were laughing about "going" but the truth was, we were laughing at the thought of being able to even get out of bed - there were so many quilts piled on us it took both of us pushing up just to wiggle out!  But, I digress again...Then she would climb into her bed and say, "Now girls, I'm going to turn out the light. Close your eyes and count to 10 and when you open your eyes it won't be dark, you will be able to see!"  And every Wednesday we would eagerly close our eyes and count - always amazed that no matter how dark the night, she was always right - we could see.

I have been thinking about Spiritual blindness lately - particularly the story of Jesus healing the man blind from birth in the 9th chapter of John's gospel. Jesus had stepped into a big mess my healing a blind man on the Sabbath - something that Jewish law would have prevented by the interpretation of the Pharisees. So, needless to say, they are upset that Jesus has broken this law and they begin a trial of sorts to accuse Jesus of this crime. What interests me about this is that no one cares at all that the blind man can see - no one except the blind man that is. The rest just want to argue and fuss and judge and condemn. It is only the blind man who 'sees' that God has shown up in a powerful way. The religious folks, who are supposed to be the God professionals - they don't see it. They are so caught up in their own drama, their own arguing, pride, and self-assurance that they are blind to the fact that scripture is being fulfilled right in front of their face.

It makes me wonder how many things of God I am blind to every day. How many times has God shown up and I was too busy, too prideful, too preoccupied with my own agenda to even notice he was there? Aren't we all guilty?

I have recently taken up meditation in conjunction with prayer and scripture reading, and today I realized that meditation is like my grandmother's nightly routine. When I take time out of my day to close my eyes and turn my mind off worldly things, I realize upon opening them again that I see better.  Not physically but spiritually. Once my eyes are open I have adjusted them to the darkness of this world and can suddenly see in light of God's world. It has made a huge difference in what I 'see' throughout the remainder of the day because now my spiritual eyes are adjusted and God is so much more visible to me.

Thank you Ma and Jesus - you have both opened my eyes to see.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Go War Eagles! (A Tribute to your Coach)

Yesterday was an incredibly hard day for the Davie High School community and the family and friends of Coach Daric Beiter, because yesterday we had to say goodbye.  It was heart wrenching to see and speak with his wife and his family. It was difficult, to put it mildly, to watch his Cross Country team come in together, holding one another up - weeping.  It struck me, watching my own daughter's heartbreak, how many lives Daric had affected in just a few years. The Principal spoke about how students had told him stories of how Daric had talked them out of suicide, how he had convinced them life was worth living. Others spoke of how he had helped them through hard times. He was like a second father to my oldest daughter and even my youngest was telling me stories of how, even though she never had him for a teacher or a coach, he still would come talk to her and give her advice - everything from what teachers she should have to dating tips.

I never had the chance to turn and see the entire crowd gathered but I know the crowd that came to say farewell to this wonderful man was huge, and all had a story about how he directly or indirectly had touched their life.  Today, I marvel at this thought.  He was only 37...he had only taught at Davie High for 12 years...he had only been married for 9...he had only been my child's mentor for 3.  So little time, and yet, look at what he had done! I've officiated at a lot of funerals in my ministry - most of them were adults much older, who had lived and died in this same small county - and yet so few had the impact in 60 - 70 - 80 years, that Daric Beiter had in 3, 9, 12, or 37.

Psalm 139 was laid before me this morning - The Psalm of the Inescapable God. The Psalmist says that God knows us intimately - every part of who we are, how we are formed, and I guess even how we might be malformed. "In your book are written all the days that were formed for me...", the Psalmist writes.  I immediately think of what I witnessed yesterday at Daric's funeral, how I had marveled at the love and care and nurture that Daric a had poured out to everyone he met....a lifetime of love, care, and nurture crammed into a few very short years.  It is as if God knew all too well the limited time we would have to experience all the gifts, talents and beauty that Daric God helped him cram it in to the little time he had. 

It makes me think of one of my favorite quotes from the movie Steel Magnolia. In the scene, Shelby is announcing to her mother that she is pregnant. Her mother is devastated by this news because Shelby has a kidney disease and doctors have told her that her body cannot take the strain of pregnancy and childbirth, it is too risky. So Shelby's mother angrily chastises her daughter for taking such a risk. But Shelby just wants to be a mother, despite the risk. So she tells her mother that she knows all too well that she might die younger for having done this, but adds "I would rather have thirty minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special. 

Today our hearts are still broken and our mourning will go on for a while, but there is one thing I know we can all agree on to say...Thank you, God for the few years of wonderful we had with Daric - because, even in the pain, we will gladly take that over a lifetime of never having known him.

I truly believe that each of those weeping faces I saw yesterday will now go on to be better people for what they have endured this long and tragic weekend. It is so easy for us to get busy and take for granted the goodness and light that is around us, but Daric's death has stopped everyone in their tracks and made us all look and take notice. It is now up to us to create our own 30 minutes of wonderful rather than a lifetime of nothing special.  So you go, War Eagle community - and show the world a little bit of the spark of God's goodness and love that Daric modeled for you! You go, make the world a more wonderful place - even if for only 3, 9, 12, or 37 years.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Psalm of Recovery

Last night I slept very little. They say one should ever go to bed angry with their spouse, I have determined we should perhaps not go angry with God either.  I woke still heartbroken, exhausted and very much in need of God's comfort. So I got up and retraced the same steps I took yesterday out to the beach. Yesterday there were dark ominous clouds gathering at a distance, the wind whipping wildly. Today, the sun is warm, the sky is blue and the cool breeze refreshing.

I sat on the steps, overlooking a calm and surprisingly blue ocean (it is almost never blue here, more a murky brown) and I prayed. I explained to God that yesterday I had just needed to rage at him and I wasn't at all interested in what he had to say in his own defense...I didn't want to hear it. So I hadn't taken the time to listen.  Today is a new day and I pled desperately to hear his voice. I sit and watch the easy waves roll up on the beach and soon they are singing to me..."All who are thirsty, all who are weak, come to the fountain wash your heart in the stream of life. Let the pain and the sorrow be washed away in the waves of his mercy as deep cries out to deep..."

In the stillness God sings me a song and as I burst into a new set of tears, God spoke..."Let go of the why," he said, "and carry the cross of what-is while keeping your eyes on the yet to be." It was a startling sentence and yet somehow, as I began to unpack it,  it put me back on firm ground and brought me a new level of peace.

Holding on to the "why" of death will be a frustrating and painful place to remain...there is no answer to why. But, finding the beauty of God and a good purpose (a better way to live and be) in the horror of grief - that is our "what-is" ...and it can only happen with a belief and trust in the "yet to be" - the promise and glory of a resurrection and new life.

The "what-is" of grief is a cross to bear for it is a heavy burden - a journey that is long, slow and is not the journey of ALL there is.  The journey of grief carries us through beautiful places, amongst loving faces and deep into peaceful valleys - even if all we can see is dark shadow and tears. But the other, the beautiful, is there, waiting to be glimpsed and discovered...waiting for us to look beyond the heavy cross we carry and see...glory...victory...resurrection. Waiting for us to glimpse the yet to be of the Easter people.

Why takes us nowhere, but "what is" painful as it is...moves us forward.

Tears still fall, hearts are still broken...we are not healed but we are in recovery. For now, we are all kinder to one another. We are all wondering how to carry this beautiful legacy forward out of this gapping hole of absence...and I am confident we will find a way...a way out of "why" - through "what is" and into the "yet to be."  It is the hope God gives us when all seems hopeless...thanks be to God.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Psalm of Grief and Rage

I have often wondered how the Psalmist went from raging at God to praising him in only a few sentences. How can rage be dispelled that easily and quickly?  Today, I need to rage at God. I am angry. I am hurt. I am heartbroken…I am sick of tears. So I do what I always do when I need to have my deepest discussions with God – I go on a walk.  Normally I find the steadfast beauty of creation to be a comfort – God speaks to me through the earth and I find peace.  Not today.

I am at the beach and I come back from my walk offended. I am offended that the ocean remains so calm and tranquil while my soul is in the midst of a raging storm. I am offended that I had to walk among flocks of sea gulls, looking happy and blissful in the warm rising sun. In truth, they feed on dead things…and my bones have been picked clean in death. They don’t even pay me mind – I have nothing to offer them but tears.

Now I have returned to my room and I feel no better than before, which is new territory for me. I think again of the Psalmists. How did their rage turn so quickly to praise? My answer…what other choice did they have? If we lose our faith and hope that God will indeed comfort those who mourn, what are we left with? An endless, empty hole. If we stop believing in his steadfast love and goodness we are doomed to stay in the darkness of evil.  We have to praise…we have to rejoice that God is good and that all things have opportunity for good and glory…because the alternative is terrifying.

Much of my ministry I have dealt with death and I am the one who offers the words of comfort…God cries with you…God did not take your loved one but he has received them well…God is good and will carry you through.  I have believed all these things and I believe them now.  I suppose I am not as angry at God as I thought – perhaps it is the earth I rage at…the world which takes the good from us at too young of an age…the natural order that can’t guarantee that those who hold such promise and give so much to making this life better, will not live long lives.

My daughter has lost three very significant people in her life in a matter of months, this last a great mentor and friend…a wife has lost her soul mate and best friend…a family has lost a kind and loving person…a school has lost a valued teacher, his colleagues a dear friend…students have lost a mentor and big brother figure who guided them through the turbulent teenage years…a track team has lost their coach and leader…a parent has lost someone she could never thank enough for the blessing he brought to her family with his nurture and love.   Rest in the Peaceful arms of Christ our brother, Deric Beiter

I will praise God for the goodness shared for a time – I will thank God for knowing this man and for the influence he had upon my daughter and our family….I will. But today…I can only rage.