Status Reckless

“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:5 (NIV) 

It gets me every time.

I am always taken by surprise.

Six months later and I do not see the trend ending any time soon.

What do I do?

I hold hands and cups of coffee.

I run between healthcare staff and family and sit in the waiting room with children who are too young to witness the adults in their lives fall apart emotionally.

I speak prayers and I sit silently, tears being the only expression close to, though not quite, capable of communicating the storm of grief taking hold.

I witness the strength and heart of the staff with awe and their tears with reverence for what they voluntarily experience out of their love for the person, for each beautiful and individual life.

And I hope.

I know the expectations, I know the probable outcome, I understand that if I have been called in, whatever chance there may be is small, and not promised.

And I expect the unexpected.

It’s not a half hope. It is not a “but God could” hope. It is not a last ditch hope.

It is complete, all in, God can hope. It is reckless hope.

And I am always taken by surprise. Because that kind of hope, against every odd, never considers the other outcome, until it arrives.

My heart always stutters in shock, surprise crashing down like a tidal wave. As I reach up for protection, He is reaching out is assurance. And I can stand and be still on the inside while walking through it on the outside.

I can get tissues and chairs. I can speak with family and safeguard sacred moments. I can remain out of the way (at least attempt to) and be readily available. I can give hugs and provide space. I can listen to stories and honor a need for silence.

I can make it home after helping family and friends head to homes that are somehow emptier in a world that makes a little, or a lot, less sense.

And then the wave comes. It has to you know. I’m not in it alone. But it still has to come down.

And I let it all wash out. Every shard of hope on trial.

Of course the defense is prepared and truth reigns.

He heard my prayers. He began answering them immediately. And yes, He was victorious.

In His way and in His time. His ways and His thoughts both higher than mine. His love incomprehensibly complete.

No matter how it feels, His truth reigns.

Not that He is unfeeling. He understands, He knows and He’s holding on. He hasn’t let go- and He’s not going to.

I knew He could do it, I know He can still do it- whatever the situation may be. I believed and believe. I hoped and I hope.

And when the tears come and the hope feels it has turned into shards of broken glass that still small voice whispers,

Child, you are not wrong. 

as He wipes the tears away.

Because there is nothing impossible for our God. Nothing too hard. Nothing too big. Nothing too much. Or too little.

In a fallen world, horrible things happen that were not apart of God’s original plan. And with all of my schooling and study I cannot say for certain why God chooses to move and to stay His hand.

I hope in and I trust a Sovereign, Holy, Loving and Just God who did not create us to destroy us, but to give us a hope and a future, an eternal home.

A last thought.

I was wondering one evening, if this reckless hope would one day dissipate all together? I mean you hear stories of burnout. Of the last straw.

What would the consequences be of recklessly putting all of your heart in, all of the time?

Certainly, there was pain. I wondered, worried, if that chipping was slowly picking away at my hope filled heart. That one day a puncture would go too deep, that my hope would become less than “complete.”

Ironically, I worried that one day I would be less “taken by surprise.”

I had been in that black pit once, I have no desire or intention of going back. Not even the tiniest bit. I could sit down and rest, but there would be no back tracking. That, my heart couldn’t take.

My personal reflection was clearly not getting me anywhere so I took a minute and passed it on to the One whose thoughts are higher than my own. And I got a picture (further proof He understands me- and my appreciation for visual learning aids!)

I pictured my heart, the way I had been “imagining” it before- a chipping from the outside. But then it changed.

Duh. The chipping was not on the outside. It was on the inside.

The chipping may hurt, but growth usually does. Long story short, it was making my heart deeper- not smaller. Capable of holding more, not less.

Child, you are not wrong. 

His picture of immediate victory may vary from mine- but my hope has never been misplaced. He is working, and He is winning. Actually, He has already won.

I cannot see the big picture from down here. But I trust Him. Meanwhile, I pray friends that you will not fear recklessly hoping, always. Because you are not wrong.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

We Who Have Hope

 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.

1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NIV)

8 months.

8 months since Mom’s earthly life ended and her eternal life began.

How we cried.

How Heaven cheered.

Not only a Mom, but a Wife,Daughter, Sister, Aunt, Teacher, Friend…

The titles she carried are endless just as the light she left behind is

The heartache has been acute this past week, coming in waves. It seemed they came without ceasing. One wave would break as another came in to push me back under.

I missed Mom, I missed Jamie, I missed Grandpa… Aunt Ruth… this list could extend out excessively…

And I know that everyone skimming through this post has their own list, their own list of cherished loved ones no longer on this side of Heaven.

Loved ones who withstanding the amount of time they have been gone, still seem to have, contradictorily, been gone a moment and yet an eternity- at the same time.

And the truth is that the waves never fully cease. Complete healing is not possible this side of Heaven. There are several moments when as wave after wave breaks it feels as if you’ve gone under and you are unable to break the surface. Drowning in grief, a deep murky darkness enclosing you.

But then… Jesus.

Ironically enough- my homework led me to the reminders and encouragement I needed. Reading through 1 Thessalonians for an assignment, I could hear that still small voice.

And I decided to camp there for a while, part of me taking comfort in the fact that the Thessalonian believers had needed the same encouragement back in the 1st Century as I did in the 21st Century.

Many of those in the Thessalonica Church had been gentiles in a Greco-Roman culture before they encountered Jesus through the words of His disciples. The Greco-Roman culture had little belief or hope in any sort of resurrection. So much so, that many tombs and grave markers attempted to belittle or make light of a person’s passing and consequently, life.

I’ve included a screenshot from one of my textbooks below that personally, I had to reread several times.

(Bruce W Longenecker (2019). (p. 367). Thinking through Paul: A Survey of His Life, Letters, and Theology.)

“I was not, I was, I am not, I care not”…

My heart cannot fathom a life devoid of hope. Without the hope of Christ, I would crumble.

Because I care, I care about seeing my Mom again and seeing my Best Friend again and all of my loved ones…

I care because I have not moved on. And the truth is I will not move on.

The same week that the waves were coming and my school assignment seemed to align with divine intervention… a TED Talk appeared on Facebook page…

Just to be sure I got the message loud and clear.

In the words of Nora McInerny, “I’ve not moved on… but I’ve moved forward with…”

I encourage everyone to hit the link below and watch this video. It is 4 minutes. 4 minutes of a message that, whether you need to hear it today or to bookmark it for a future day, you will not regret stopping to listen.

This past week we planted mums at Mom’s bench. The waves didn’t come so much that day. There was peace. And there was hope. Because in Jesus Christ we no longer have to grieve as those without hope.

That does not mean we do not grieve, just that as we grieve we recognize deep down it is a momentary separation awaiting eternal joy.

Thessalonians we get it- the struggle is real.

Paul we hear you- our hope is real, and our eyes are set.

Jesus we love you- thank you for loving us first.

Nora continues her talk, stating that “We need to remember, and help each other remember, that grief is a multitasking emotion…”

In this broken world we grieve, we move forward but we are not called to move on- we are called to rely on our hope.

We Don’t “Move on” from Grief. We Move Forward with It

 

 

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

Story heard and shared by Charlie Musser and retyped by Brittany Shears.

There once was a father who had a son he loved dearly and who he took great joy in. While the father had intended to give his son the world, unfortunately the family’s flock had fallen in disarray due to the lies of their greatest rival. The father had created and nurtured the flock and though he did not need the flock he treasured them and sought to restore them.

Seeing his father’s grief the son volunteered to go out and help make the way for the flock to return to the father. Though the way came at great cost, the son succeeded in his mission and the way was made. The entire household rejoiced at such a victory. The flock was finally able to be restored and the son became known as the good shepherd.

Overtime though the son found some of the flock refused to finish crossing the path he had set, for they feared the creek they would have to cross. Although the grass was clearly greener and plentiful on the other side they stayed along the bank. Though only feet away, they remained lost in the rival’s territory.

The good shepherd was desperate. He walked along the flock calling them by name and encouraging them to cross. Some looked at him with hope in their eyes that was slowly diminished by their own fears and decision to stay safely along the bank. Others ignored him as they continued to do what they felt was best, eating the mediocre grass and staying a safe distance from the bank in complacency. And then there were those who were farthest from the bank living wildly and hostile towards the good shepherd when he approached. Regardless, none answered him.

He continued to walk through the flock hoping to find one who would brave the creek and enter into his father’s kingdom before darkness fell. Eventually he came across a newborn lamb. It looked up at the good shepherd and bleated in excitement of being alive and seeing this new friendly face. The good shepherd knelt down and as he pat his head he had an idea.

“Would you cross the creek my friend?” He asked the little lamb. The lamb looked up at the good shepherd a moment longer then bowed his head. The good shepherd knew the lamb could not cross on her own, but he could carry her. So he gathered the lamb and gently carried her to the bank of the creek. Quickly the mother of the lamb took notice and began to loudly protest drawing the attention of the others.

The good shepherd turned and reassuringly called “Follow me,” and he continued his journey across the creek into the greener pasture of his father’s kingdom. As the good shepherd gently laid the lamb down he turned to the sound of the mother jumping into the creek and crossing over. He smiled as she reached him and her lamb and rejoiced that she had made it home. As the good shepherd looked up he saw the father quickly crossing as well and behind him several others began to wade in and make their way.

By nightfall the entire flock had safely made it home into his father’s kingdom.

As the flock ran and jumped with joy in excitement for their new home the good shepherd noticed the mother sheep beside her lamb. The good shepherd walked over and sat beside the mother who eyed him curiously as he pat her head. “I am sorry to have had to put you through that. But I know what it is to suffer a great cost for a greater good. I realized that I would have to take one to the other side so the entire flock would follow. I know your separation was painful but I assure you, your little lamb has won a great victory for the kingdom- for now you, your lamb and the entire flock have entered into my father’s glory where there is no more sorrow and no more separation”.

Moral of the Story: Sometimes God will take one to the other side so the entire flock will follow.

 

Foolish Faith

I knew He could and I had hoped He would.

I wouldn’t be shaken, I didn’t care how impossible it looked or how dark it felt. There was no other option but hope. No other outcome was to be entertained. Victory was the only possible answer. Miraculous, unbelievable, odds defying victory.

Deep down though I knew, though I didn’t want to say it, that God’s definition and picture of victory did not always match my own.

Yes, His visions of victory had included parting the Red Sea, driving out Israel’s enemies and tearing the veil in the temple.

However, His visions of victory had also included 40 years in the wilderness, Nehemiah standing amongst ruins and Jesus hanging from the cross.

And it hurts. God knows it hurts when our visions of victory don’t coincide with His.

And the lies begin to run through your mind, each one a blow directed to destroy your already broken heart, each one intent on tearing you down and stealing what truth and light you knew or at least thought you had known…

Why didn’t He show up?, What did I do wrong?, Were my words not studied enough?, Were my shortcomings too great? Or my faith too small?

The reality is that He did not show up because He was always already there. He heard our prayers and our declarations and our faith and He drew us closer. Because He knew it hurt and He knew we didn’t understand. And that we wouldn’t understand.

And so after only two months, Mom lost her earthly battle to cancer and instead won a heavenly victory. Not exactly the victory we had prayed for and even now a win which feels more like a loss. But though I don’t understand it and although it hurts beyond description… I know that it is a victory which is greater than I can fathom.

That is the only explanation, my best answer- I simply don’t get it and all my faith is still in Him.

Many thought my faith was foolish then. Foolish optimism. To be looking at what was an impossible escape and still proclaim God’s ability to intervene. To declare life where surety of death was indisputable.

I can only imagine what some think of my faith now. A faith which from all outwardly appearances lost its battle. A faith which seemingly fell short in the end. Such a faith could surely not survive, not now, not after such a disastrous loss.

However, it not only survived but is yet growing.

A faith which even now, amid heartbreak and loss, declares the righteousness of a God whose promises are for our good and whose love is steadfast. A faith that says yes God could have intervened but He stayed His hand… because His was a greater purpose than we could ever comprehend. And that in the greater picture, this heavenly victory will cause a ripple effect and continue to change the whole world, one heart at a time.

Foolish optimism, realistic faith. God’s victory didn’t look like the one I had imagined, hope for or prayed for ceaselessly. In fact His victory looks exactly like my definition of defeat. And it really sucks.

But my faith didn’t end with my mom’s earthly life. A faith which she had instilled and encouraged in me.

How can I be sure that He knew what He was doing? That He cares? That He was prepared for this when to us it is so sudden and so unexpected?

The small things. His small assurances.

Fun fact about me: I love libraries. I love walking through the aisles of books and always pray I pick a book that may be my next favorite. And as little and insignificant as the prayer seems, one carelessly and arbitrarily thought, He hears it and He answers it. I know that now.

Often I end up checking out a completely random book. I will grab something I’ve never heard of, something I am not sure I even really want to read. (Note: I have a to-read list on Goodreads nearing 1,200 books so I do not necessarily need to pick a completely random book ever… but I do).

I picked up such a book in November 2018.

For some reason I pulled that book off the shelf. And for some reason I brought it home and literally continuously renewed it for several weeks until… for some reason I finally decided to lay everything else aside and read it.

And for some reason I’m marveling at how He did that while also surprisingly not surprised.

The small assurances. When He whispers in that still small voice from the most unexpected of places at the most unexpected of times.

Not while everything feels it is collapsing in or when you’re crying out to Him, I’ve learned in those moments He simply holds you. Amid destruction He carries you to unshaken ground and He holds you. He doesn’t say anything, because there is nothing to say. It hurts. And nothing will make that better this side of heaven. Nothing will fully heal the loss until we are all reunited in the place where there is no more death and no more tears. He provides the comfort we need to keep our hope burning, though it may barely be a flicker.

And then when it is time He stokes the fire. That book I checked out in November, I finally set everything aside and read it. Tucked inside it’s pages was exactly what I needed to hear. Several things I needed to hear in fact. Including that which is included in the featured image of this post…

“Earthly hearts cannot always fathom divine reasoning.”

You are right God. And that’s okay. We were never meant to.

Meanwhile, He has also reminded me that after 40 years the Israelites made it to the Promised Land, Nehemiah did rebuild the wall and Jesus… well Jesus overcame the grave for all of us and in Him no goodbye is ever the last word but merely a until we meet again.

It still hurts. God’s still good. And although I have several books to read at home, I’m still going to the library.

** Bonus Quotes from “Such a Time as This” by Kate Breslin**

Because they were exactly what I needed and may be exactly what someone else needs too.

“I do not doubt Your message God. But I do wonder when…”

“Why had she assumed God would speak to her in some great audible sign, like a thunder-clap, lightning or burst of fire from the sky? Had anger and bitterness made her deaf to His whisper?”

“A strong belief in God is like forging steel; it must be repeatedly tested in fire, then cooled in the waters of His mercy before becoming resilient enough to withstand evil.”

** This last quote was written down with the others, but it was a couple of days later that I really felt its full effect. Story to follow in upcoming post.**

“Papa told me a boy only fails when he does not try,.. I think it must be the same for a girl.”