Christmas without Mary

This Christmas Eve, as I worshiped in church at our midnight mass, I found my thoughts circling around back two years ago to the final weeks spent with my mother here on this earth. I found myself even deeper in my memories during a moving sermon by our bishop, the Right Rev. Greg Rickel (click here to watch his sermon, which begins at time stamp 1:12:35). In his sermon, he reflected on these words from the Gospel of St. Luke:

But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.

–Luke 2:19

Bishop Rickel also found inspiration in an obscure country-western song by Charlie Pride titled Christmas without Mary, and in his sermon he imagined what it must have been like being Mary, the mother of Jesus. And what would Christmas be without Mary, anyway? What if Mary had said no to God’s call to her to bear God’s son? And what influence did Mary play on Jesus’s life in those 30 or so years between his birth and the stories we read of his ministry in the Gospels? How exactly would the story have unfolded without Mary?

The story of the Virgin Mary is one that isn’t usually discussed much in Protestant Christian circles. And if you look at most, if not all, books of the Bible, the role of women has been mostly sidelined. The times that women are mentioned, they are often put in their place by the author. But what inspiration might we find in the courage, the humility, the grace, and the obedience of Mary, the mother of Jesus? I have always found particular beauty in the Gospel stories in which women are portrayed. The story of Mary Magdalene and her love of Jesus, the story of the woman (thought to be Mary Magdalene) who anointed Jesus’s feet with oil and dried them with her hair, the story of the Samaritan woman that Jesus encounters at the well, inviting her to find the living water in him.

My own mother was named in honor of the Virgin Mary, a a tradition that her Roman Catholic family and many other similar families have observed for generations. Her life, like the Virgin Mary, was one of challenge, perseverance of faith, and strong obedience to God. I will always and forever find myself thinking of my own mother Mary whenever words of Scripture or a hymn focus on Mary, the mother of God.

This Christmas, as I ponder all of these things in my heart, I find my heart overflowing with love and gratitude just a little more than normal. Thanks, in part, to the inspiration and example of the Virgin Mary, of her love and grace and example. And also, in part, to the love my own mother Mary instilled in me.

How might we be inspired by the story of Mary? Think about these things, and ponder them in your heart.

And Merry Christmas!

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Heavenly Healing

Christmas Eve at church proved once again to be riddled with sweet little gifts from heaven above. This year on the second anniversary of mom’s passing, I am reminded of healing. From the songs that we sung, the message in the sermon, to the video shared, one theme continued to surface…Christ came down from heaven to provide us healing.

Healing can be defined as curing or curative; prescribed or helping to heal. It can also mean growing sound; getting well; mending.  Healing is a journey, and it’s path can provide starkly different results, depending through which lens you choose to view it. This past year has been about healing for our family on just about every front possible. Some healing has seemed almost curative, and other healing paths are still being wandered down. Some paths of healing have been openly shared, some paths so hidden and sacred, few have witnessed.

As many of you may know, dad was diagnosed with a terrifying bone infection in his back and surrounding muscles in August of this year. The outcome of this infection potentially so grave, I called my brother home from Seattle. The healing journey dad is walking is a path of mending. He is growing sound more each week, but it is painfully slow, and still filled with unknowns as far as final physical outcome. How many scars will he have? Will he ever resume life physically as he knew it? Is this his “new normal”? Still so many answers yet to be discovered on this path, and so he waits, patiently and cries out to Jesus for daily strength of both mind and body. I wonder if you find yourself on this type of healing journey….slow, painful, filled with unknowns?

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him – Psalm 37:7

Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord – Psalm 27:14

My son Isaac, this time last year was experiencing crippling anxiety that earned him a hospitalization and prevented him from being able to attend school from Nov-Feb. I had to quit work, entirely, in order to care for him and ensure he didn’t fall behind in school. We took him to a wonderful psychiatrist/psychologist team that set him on a good track toward healing. Once the correct medicine was determined, some changes at home were made, and he learned some basic coping skills, his healing path seemed to nearly be curative.

This school year he is thriving, so much so, that the school counselor wants to make an award for the best all around child and give it to Isaac at the end of the year. This is a child who would not step foot into that school last year, we literally dragged him to the car and nearly carried him into school. Now, he bounds into school and almost daily helps other schoolmates cope with their anxieties. His healing path taught him compassion and empathy for those who are suffering with anxiety and depression. He has a heart for those that the rest of the world sees as broken. He sees their brokenness and reaches out to touch their heart. Maybe this healing path sounds familiar? It came in with a loud bang and ended with a resounding song of redemption. The difficulty you endured is being used to help others heal.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. – 1 Peter 1:6-7

In the opening few lines of his sermon, our teaching pastor shared a video that has gone viral of a little girl who asked for a sacred, precious gift from Santa this year…the gift of life. Her young cousin is battling leukemia, and she asked Santa to give her the gift of healing her cousin this Christmas. This wise Santa, proclaims that he can not heal her, for he does not posses the power, but he knows who does. Next, we watched as Santa prays aloud with this little girl, asking Jesus to heal her precious cousin.

What a profound video, filled with deep meaning for me. Two Christmas’s ago, many gathered around mom’s hospital bed and cried out to Jesus for her healing from leukemia.  My dad begged God to let her live. He bargained with God that he would be willing to caretake for her for 20 more years, if God would just keep her here on this earth.  I labored tirelessly for 10 days, rarely ever leaving her bedside. I lay night after night on a cold, hard make-shift bed, slowly, watching the life draining out of my mother’s body, her beautiful green eyes, and eventually her breath. A gut wrenching journey of healing…a journey of heavenly healing.

Have you prayed a similar prayer? Have you prayed for a loved one that is sick, or a marriage that seems to be dying? Do you long to be set free from the chains of addiction that bind your body? You need a heavenly healing. Heavenly healing requires death; beginning with spiritual death. We have to choose to die to ourself, our way of doing things in order to experience Christ’s heavenly healing the first time to ultimately receive it in our final breath. Want to break free from the chains of addiction? Die to your own power to control it; YOU ARE POWERLESS! Enter a step program. Want to save your marriage? Die to your unhealthy ways of thinking and interacting with your spouse.  Find a Life’s Healing Choices group and immerse yourself in healing, for “hurt people, hurt others”. Choose the healing path, choose life.

What about physical death? How is that healing? Well, it depends upon which lens you choose to view it. My view shows me that God DID answer our prayers of healing mom.  He bestowed the ultimate heavenly healing on mom…life and presence before Him.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There won’t be death anymore. There won’t be any grief, crying, or pain, because the first things have disappeared. The one sitting on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new! – Revelation 21:4-5

Christ came to bring us life. Life initially through his birth and ultimately through his death. Merry Christmas! May you find life this Christmas season ❤️

Chapter from “Unconditionally”

It has been nearly two years since mom entered eternal life. Thanksgiving is always a rough time since that was the last weekend that I was able to really spend with my mother prior to her being admitted to the hospital. She and my father visited me Thanksgiving week in 2015, just one month before she died. And it was a wonderful time spent with my parents! Even though my mom was in a weakened stated, she enjoyed that trip to the fullest, as her body would allow her.

I have been slowly working on writing a book about my mother’s life; I’ve so far decided to call it “Unconditionally.” I wanted to share one of the chapters of the book that I wrote, reflecting on my mother’s last trip to visit me in Seattle. I’d love to hear what you think!

Chapter 3 from Unconditionally:

My mother was a self-professed simple lady. In school, she had always been an average student. She didn’t go to college. Instead, after graduating high school and soon thereafter becoming pregnant with her first child, she decided to go to x-ray school. Radiology was a trade which she grew to love and excel at. Later in life, she would leave the profession to focus on raising her children and being there for her family and to tend to the house while dad worked seemingly endless long days.

She found odd jobs in her spare time to supplement her income. She sold Avon for a short time. She assisted my father at his business in a secretarial capacity. She worked at a catalog telephone center. She got a job at a local department store. But none of these provided her the flexibility in her schedule that she wanted so that she could be more available for my sister and me.

Eventually, she ended up finding the most flexibility in cleaning. It was a relatively easy task that needed little skill, and that allowed her to be flexible in her own schedule. She could set the days and hours she was available, and could do it in between her errands throughout the day while I was in school. Or if my sister or I had to leave school sick during the day, she could easily rearrange her schedule and even bring us with her while she completed her cleaning route. It wasn’t a glamorous job, but it provided a nice amount of money compared to the amount of time and work she put into it. For years, the back of her car trunk looked like a cleaning supply shop. Mops and buckets and cleansers and rags. And even a vacuum! She was ready for it all.

For a few summers, I even helped my mom in a couple of her cleaning jobs. There was an office close to our house that I helped her clean in the evenings, emptying all the garbage cans and helping vacuum while she dusted and cleaned the toilets and kitchen. She was methodical in her cleaning. She knew the most efficient way of tackling any cleaning job and went about each task with a precision in which she took great pride.

As she got older, and there was less need for the extra income that it provided, she eventually “retired” from cleaning as a profession. It was a welcomed opportunity for her body, long wearied from the rigorous workout that comes along with cleaning, to heal itself from the wear and tear. She had long suffered from back pains because of one too many lifting accidents, both from lifting patients when she worked at the hospital and from cleaning.

But, she still loved to clean. It was something she was good at. To her, it was a science. She was always willing to help me and my sister at any cleaning task we might have. Sometimes, she was a bit aggressive about it. I’d think to myself, “Mom, chill out. I can handle it.” But the older I got, and there more times she offered to help me clean, I learned to just accept her offer since it obviously brought her so much joy.

When I bought my first house, mom was thrilled to offer her cleaning services. She would not have her son move into a house without a thorough cleaning. I’m not just talking vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen. I’m talking dusting the baseboards and cleaning out the kitchen cabinets and drawers with warm soapy water. I’m talking cleaning inside the windowsills and underneath the refrigerator. I’m talking inside of the grooves of the bedroom doors and the inside corners of the bedroom closets. I’m telling you, my mother was a cleaning machine.

When I bought my second house (much larger than my first) mom’s mid-fifty-year-old body wasn’t keen on the idea of cleaning the whole house as she might have offered ten years before. So she insisted on paying for a cleaning service to come in and thoroughly clean my house, with her supervision and strict guidance, of course! She went all out ensuring every nook and cranny of my new abode sparkled. Scrubbed tile, freshly cleaned kitchen cabinets, mopped and shiny hardwood floors, and she even ensured that the exposed ceiling in the basement had all of the cobwebs dusted out.

When I moved to Seattle, mom was sad that she couldn’t make it out to my new home and provide her cleaning services. But that didn’t stop her from offering to help clean on her visits in the future. Each time she and my dad came to visit, mom offered to do a bit of cleaning for me. “Make your momma happy and let me do some cleaning”, she’d say. As I’d learned to accept it in the past, I welcomed my mother’s loving offer to do something special for her son. It brought her joy, and it in turn brought me joy as a result.

On what would turn out to be my mother’s last trip to visit me in Seattle, she had sent me a mystery box ahead of her arrival. “Don’t open it ‘til your mother gets there!”, my dad told me. What could be inside? A gift for me? Something magnificent to adorn my walls with? When she and my dad arrived at my apartment a few days later, mom asked me to bring the box to her. It was a box of, you guessed it, cleaning supplies. I laughed.

“Mom, you know you could have used my cleaning supplies, or even bought these items up here.”

“I know, but I didn’t want any excuse to not get this done,” she replied.

The one thing I didn’t have any more was a mop. She was not happy that, upon my move out west (after having moved from my 3-bedroom house into an efficiency apartment in downtown Seattle), I got rid of quite a few of my possessions for the sake of storage space, including a very specific mop that my mom had bought for me.

“Where’d that mop go, the one I bought you for your house?”, she asked. “I got rid of it…didn’t have room for it,” I replied.

She didn’t like that answer. “Well, I guess we’ll have to go buy you a new mop!”, she proclaimed. “Mom, I really don’t need a mop. You don’t need to mop. It’s fine,” I said.

“I’m in charge of the cleaning and I want to mop. Don’t argue with your momma!”

So…she, my dad and I went to a local drugstore and bought a really fancy (in my opinion) mop, plus an extra mop head (mom had planned to do quite a bit of nitty gritty mopping!). We took public transportation to the store, and walked from the drugstore to a nearby mall to do a bit more shopping. Mom carried the mop as we walked down the street, much like a color guard carries a banner or a flag. At first, I was a bit embarrassed to be walking with my mother along the streets of downtown Seattle, carrying this silly mop. But then, I realized it was symbolic for my mother’s love. And then I was proud to be walking with her. And I offered to carry the mop. And I did. And I carried it with pride.

We eventually got back to my apartment, and mom proceeded to scrub my kitchen counters and polish my kitchen sink. She scrubbed my bathtub, making it sparkle in a way that only my mother could accomplish. She hand washed the dishes I had left from the day before, even though I had a dishwasher that I could easily use. “It doesn’t clean as well as I can hand wash,” she’d say. And then when she got to using the mop, her fatigue and the soreness from her swollen spleen made it difficult. So I offered to help. I got on my hands and knees and scrubbed the scuff marks on my vinyl hardwood-style floor. This was something I would never, ever do. Sweep up the dust bunnies: yes. Scrub up every last one of the scuff marks: no. But it brought my mother joy to see me scrubbing my floor to a sparkling clean. And it brought me joy that it brought my mother joy.

The last photo taken with my mother on Thanksgiving Day, 2015 (Alki Beach, Seattle)

The last photo taken with my mother before she died. Thanksgiving Day, 2015 (Alki Beach, Seattle)

Stripping Sets Us Free

It’s been roughly a year and a half since I last sat in a hospital and typed a post on this site. Didn’t think I would be here again so soon watching another loved one suffer. As I sit in the hospital tonight, a lot of similarities exist. Most notably, the swirling of emotions, thoughts, and feelings, that I try so desperately to process. The underlying fear of the unknown that threatens to convince me of the worst. The medical and professional knowledge that speak logic and reasoning. The presence of God’s Spirit that softly whispers truth and encouragement. Then, the similarities I want to forget…sleeping on a hard make shift bed, IV alarms going off, nurses all hours of the night, pangs of broken, interrupted sleep, my brother home from Seattle and our parent lying in a hospital bed.

This summer I have had the privilege of spending a lot of time with my father. We’ve discussed deep longings of the heart and soul and where God seems to fit into all the pain and suffering. We’ve shared devotions, scriptures, emails, and passages in books. He has been real with me about how the deep suffering of losing mom has changed him, caused him to question God, and created a profound longing in him to go home to be with Jesus. He’s compared himself to Job, and expressed his longings to be out of his season of “stripping”. He kept asking this summer, “What does God want from me? Do I not serve Him enough? Have I done something wrong? What have I done so wrong to require this chastisement? I’ve given. He’s taken the only thing I found joy in. What more will He take? How much more stripping will He do? Am I not already bare?”

Two weeks ago, dad awoke with an excruciating pain in his back. He went the typical route of treatment he had before: adjustments, ice/heat, anti-inflammatories, all with no relief. Next a round of steroids, additional assessment of muscular imbalances with  corresponding exercises, and still the pain increased. Fevers, nausea, and weight loss finally sent us to his primary care physcian for further evaluation. MRI was the next step in order to determine a cause, yet dad could not tolerate lying down; he had been sleeping sitting up for approximately a week. So with MRI order in hand and stronger pain medication, he left the office hoping to get his pain under control. Yet once again, his pain continued, increasing in severity daily. With his pain not abating, he wound up in the ER Friday morning, hoping that they could provide enough pain medication in order to assist him with being able to lie still for the needed MRI. The initial IV pain medication given was not successful. For 3h I watched my father restless from unrelenting pain. Four times I tried to alert the staff that he needed a different pain medication and once I turned away the MRI technician. Finally, after being given the strongest pain med they had, it was under control enough for him to endure the MRI.

It didn’t take long for the MRI results to come back and as soon as they did, the physcians were on top of it. Diagnosis was not simple, but in fact complicated.  MRI revealed 2 abscesses in muscle, 1 near the spinal cord, and an infection in the bone of the spine. I felt my strength immediately leave my body as we were being given the findings. Unfortunately being in the medical field, I knew the potential end results of infections such as these. I knew how utterly critical it was that treatment be started ASAP. Dad had hoped the MRI would only reveal typical wear and tear of the discs and joints, but instead, he learned he had a raging infection that could be fatal if not treated. So instead of going home, as he had anticipated, he was being admitted for an unidentified period of time.

Again, his questions began. “Did God really feel like I needed more suffering? Has there not been enough? Now this? Is there really more to strip? When is this going to end?”

Have you ever found yourself asking these questions? I know I have. If we are honest, I think most of us have. So the question “Why?” beckons an answer. Why does God allow such tragedies? Why does He not stop the suffering? Why does He seem to forsake us during the trial? Why do the tribulations seem to compound on top of one another?

Have you ever heard of Job? He lost everything. His home, his children, his livelihood, his possessions, all but his not so sweet wife. Three of Job’s friends tried to convince him of the reasons he was suffering, all to which God revealed were incorrect. It was not to punish him or teach him a lesson. It was not because Job had not served enough or had unconfessed sin. It was not because he needed to repent more.

What about God’s character throughout Job’s or our suffering? Is He really who He says He is? Is He really loving? Does He really care? Does He really exist? Job’s wife encouraged him to curse God and die. Suffering causes us to question God’s character. It causes us to feel like He is an angry God ready to punish us if we make a wrong move. We begin to sense that nothing is off limits to this testing, not family, not our health, not our possessions, not our mental well-being. So what keeps us from despair? Where is hope to be placed? If it’s not in our ability to control and protect the afore-mentioned areas of our life, then what’s the point? Why try? Why care? What is the seemingly futile point of stripping and suffering? I think Job learned why and I think we can too.

I am going to offer a reason that may sound ludicrous, may sound like all of my stripping and suffering has caused a few screws to come loose…….Stripping Sets you Free!

What you may ask? She has lost her mind, your thinking. Well, I did lose something, but not what you would assume. Over a 15 year period, God stripped me of all the idols I didn’t realize I possessed.  My idols, were seemingly innocuous: my strength, my health, my emotional/mental stability, relationships, career, people. I didn’t realize how much identity, hope, and sense of worth I found in these areas of my life. I was stripped in all of them and more. I faced a lot of my fears head on, experiencing them in their entirety and you know what happened? Fear lost the vice grip it had on my soul.

My bondage was broken to who I thought I should be, who I thought I once was, and who I was becoming. My hope, my reason to forge through this life was no longer dependent on my health, my strength, people, relationships, life, or any type of earthly stability. You know what I found in it’s place? Freedom! The freedom to live in a deep, fulfilling, meaningful, intimate relationship with Jesus. The freedom to not have it all together. The freedom to fall at His feet and pour out my emotions, my needs, my desires. The freedom just to be, just to exist in the moment and not have to figure it all out.  The freedom to see God’s glorious character shine through as He met each and every need and then praise Him for doing so. I think Job says it best:

“Then Job replied to the Lord:

“I know that you can do anything,
    and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
    It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,
    things far too wonderful for me.
You said, ‘Listen and I will speak!
    I have some questions for you,
    and you must answer them.’
I had only heard about you before,
    but now I have seen you with my own eyes.

~ Job 42:1-5

 

 

Sacred Journeys

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness. –Psalm 151:1

This Psalm was a part of my Morning Prayer devotion today. This was after I had already found my mind reminiscing about certain beautifully sacred times I spent with my mother. Some of the most sacred moments I spent with my mother were during our travels, either just the two of us, or with family. One such occasion I fondly remember was an impromptu trip my mother and I took to Chicago and Madison, WI.

We had originally planned to take a long weekend trip with my father to Salt Lake City. However, we ended up not making the flight due to forgetful mom leaving her photo ID at home and so we couldn’t make it on the flight. But everything turned out alright. My mom desperately wanted to go on vacation and since Salt Lake City wasn’t going to work out, we decided to take a road trip. After throwing around several options, my mom and I decided to hit the road and head to Chicago. It was a few months til Christmas, and my mom liked the idea of doing some shopping on the Magnificent Mile.

We had such a wonderful time, even though we had our share of arguments in the car over who could talk on the phone and when and what music to listen to. You know, your typical family disagreements. But the time we spent in Chicago, and also in Madison, was so wonderful. I was in seminary at the time, and my mom loved hearing about what I was studying. She even helped me study my Hebrew by drilling me with my vocabulary flash cards.

I think the most memorable part of the trip had to be in Madison. After we arrived and had lunch (grilled cheese and tomato soup!), we decided to head down to University of Wisconsin bookstore to pick up some souvenirs that said “Madison” or “Wisconsin” on them for Christmas gifts. We were around the Capitol building, which sits atop a hill on the surrounding isthmus. It was a downhill walk to the university bookstore. After doing some shopping there, we decided to head back to our car and make our way back to Chicago. But it was a pretty steep uphill walk from the bookstore back to where we parked by the Capitol. And neither of us felt like making that steep walk. This was in the days before uber, and we couldn’t find any cabs…but we did see plenty of college students who were available for a bicycle taxi!

My mom and I giggled at the thought of a college student hauling both of us up the hill on his or her bike. But they were there to provide the service, and make a bit of cash, so we thought we’d give it a try. We laughed and laughed the whole way up the hill.

“We’re going to break his chain,” my mom declared. “We’re too heavy for him.”

“I hope he doesn’t pass out from exhaustion,” I giggled.

“If he makes it up the hill, it will be a miracle,” mom proclaimed.

We couldn’t stop giggling at what a funny sight we must be. We kept asking him if he was OK, and he kept saying “Yep, I’m great!”, even though he acted like it was one of the toughest bike rides of his life! 😀

We did make it up the hill, all three of us in one piece. We gave the bicycle taxi boy a very nice tip!

There are so many more stories I have of spending such sacred moments with my mother. Every now and then, something will spark one of those memories in my mind, and even though it is sad thinking we can’t make new memories together, I am so very thankful for those many times we were able to spend together.

And just as my mom would have it, these memories always put a smile on my face and make me giggle.

I took this photo on our bicycle taxi ride in Madison. Mom had a huge smile on here face from all of the giggling we were doing the whole time.
I took this photo on our bicycle taxi ride in Madison. Mom had a huge smile on here face from all of the giggling we were doing the whole time.

Breathe In…Breath Out…Bend Your Knees…Bow Your Will

It’s hard to believe that the 1 year anniversary of mom’s  passing is upon us. When I look back over this past year, I see it through a misty fog of grief. Sometimes the fog is so thick and oppressive it takes my breath away.  Other times, it’s just enough to make things blurry, preventing me from seeing clearly and creating varying levels of anxiety.  And yet other times it descends so fast, I am taken by surprise and enveloped by it’s expanse.

Oh the journey of suffering and grief, how it transforms you, strips you, and redefines you. The first 2 months following her death, I was in shock. The reality of her absence had not yet set in and I was numb, just going through the motions of life. In February, when we went out to Seattle to see Michael, it hit me like a heavyweight TKO. My heart, mind, and soul shut down. I don’t remember much from Feb through July to be honest. I attended functions, drove to and fro, worked some…basically, existed to the best of my ability. I was just trying to understand what life looked like without her.

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, and months now into a year. My first Mother’s Day without her came and went, as did her birthday, each of our birthdays, dad’s 1st anniversary without her, Thanksgiving and now back to Christmas. The fog continues to blur the reality of time.  Life continues to march forward at speeds I often times can’t seem to keep up with.

The world continues to spin on as life, my children’s needs, my marriage needs, my business, needs of loved ones, responsibilities, all continue to demand my attention.  New trials and tribulations present themselves, each bringing a huge tidal wave that knocks me back into tumultuous waters.  Wasn’t it enough to just try and reach some sort of equilibrium after losing mom? Why more difficulties, trauma, and struggles that threaten my very ability just to stand?  Grief has torn down the strong walls that fortify my resolve and allow me to stand on steady feet.

Once again, I find myself in a place of vulnerability – bare, feeble, and exposed to the impending elements. I try with all I have just to breathe and stay on two feet. However, often times the tidal wave knocks me back down to my knees, catching me off guard, leaving me scrambling for stable footing. I found myself this past November in just such a place, but this time I was knocked flat on my face, consumed inside the wave of turbulent waters.

WHY LORD? Now, I’m scrambling for breath and stable footing. WHERE ARE YOU?  I’m drowning in this sea of pain and torment! I’M THROUGH WITH YOU! Yes, I told Him I was finished with Him, with us, denying the power of the cross and Christ’s resurrection in my life.

Have you been there before? Have you uttered these words to Him? Do you find yourself there at this very moment?  WHAT NOW?

Breathe In…

Truth – He whispers to me, “You can deny me, but I can not deny you. You are mine, marked and sealed, my child for eternity.”

Breathe Out…

Lament – The Spirit surrounds me declaring “I will cry out for you with groanings too deep for words.” “My groans are many, and I am sick at heart..I have cried until the tears no longer come; my heart is broken.”1

Bend the knee…

Praise – He steadies me to my knees, “Your words have helped the tottering to stand, and You have strengthened feeble knees.”2

Bow the will…

Worship – In the waiting, bow your will and worship. In the garden, Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”3

With each tidal wave, God brings me to my knees. His breath enters and leaves my body, as His Spirit sustains me. Therefore, I choose to:

Breath in…Breath out…Bend my knee…Bow my will

What do you choose?

“I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning…The Lord is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the Lord.” ~Lamentations 3:21-23, 25-26

 

1: Lamentations 1:22, 2:11; 2: Job 4:4; 3: Luke 22:42, John 4:24

 

 

 

 

 

Blessèd

Tonight, I attended Evensong celebrating the Feast of All Saints. It took everything within me during the Introit not to break into tears. Within my field of vision was a photo of my mother on our altar of remembrance. The words sung during the Introit were excerpted from the Beatitudes:

Blessèd are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the dominion of heaven.
Blessèd are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessèd are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessèd are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

(Watch a beautiful performance of this musical piece here.)

I thought of my mother’s life, and her tireless and never-ending embodiment of these words. Mother always, and sometimes annoyingly, focused on the good in people and reminded her family that God is in control and that Christ calls us to be followers: to forgive, to help others, to love, and to never boast about ourselves without giving the praise and honor to Christ. She taught me what it means to be humble in faith and how to always point our actions and words toward glorifying and magnifying God’s holy name.

While the Introit continued…”Blessèd are the peacemakers…”, I began to circle back to where my mind has been far too much lately, thinking about the election. And how much vitriol and hatred and deceit and fear and anger is surrounding the entire process this year. It seems like it gets worse every four years. And I found myself thinking: what would my mother say about this?

I think what she would say is: none of this matters. God is in control. In the end, God is always victorious. Love always wins. Grace always has the last word. Even though we are born into sin, we are freely given redemption in Jesus Christ. Even though our country is filled with people who hate and exclude and inflict violence and inequality, there is a greater power that we acclaim: the power of God made known to us in Jesus Christ.

So, even today, 11 months after mom entered life eternal, she is comforting me. Her life and faith, inspired and perfected by the grace of God, continues to shape my life and faith today. So even as the days and weeks and years ahead, no matter who is elected, will be filled with uncertainty and more and more vitriol and anger and fear and hatred, I will set my eyes on God’s word and the example of perfection: Jesus Chris.

Because, as Jesus taught us, blessèd are the peace makers, for they shall be called children of God.

Thanks be to God!

One of the last photos of me with mom. Taken on Alki Beach in Seattle.
One of the last photos of me with mom. Taken on Alki Beach in Seattle.