An Offering Of Tears In A Season Of Joy

How do you handle it when everyone around you is happy and you’re not? How do you cope during a time when the rest of the world celebrates, and you often want to cry?

I found myself in that place last year in the spring after my mother died. She died a month before Easter, two months before Mother’s Day and the birth of my 4th grandchild (her 11th great grandchild). The world was celebrating these holidays, and my heart was trying to find joy in them while grieving my loss. The paradoxes of the situation and the need to pay attention to the demands of the situations caused me to push my grief aside and not deal with it. It was only recently, when hit with another unhappy life event in yet another joyful time, that I finally began to process the griefs properly.

I wondered about this when I was listening to a sermon about Mary, the mother of Jesus. Here was this young woman, a teenager really if you look at the culture of the time (perhaps as young as 14), engaged to be married to a (likely older) man. In our culture, it’s often the happiest time of a young woman’s life, and even in her arranged marriage culture, it likely was for her, too. She likely knew Joseph and knew her parents wouldn’t have picked out someone inappropriate for her. They might even have been friends or acquaintances, with the slight possibility they already loved one another. The wedding is being planned, the guests invited, the preparations made, the household goods for their new home arranged and everything is all new and exciting for her. It’s a time of great joy for Mary, Joseph and their families.

In Luke 1: 26 – 38, into the scene enters the angel, speaking to Mary, telling her of the coming Savior. The angel says she is the chosen one, the virgin spoken of by Isaiah the prophet so many centuries prior,

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His Name Immanuel.

Isaiah 7:14

This news was as startling and upsetting as it was joyful. The Jews had been waiting centuries for their promised Messiah, yearning and hoping. But no one expected the Messiah to come as a baby, to be born to a young woman who would be viewed as an unwed mother, who could be quite literally stoned to death for her perceived crime of becoming pregnant without benefit of marriage. They never expected Him to arrive at that place in Nazareth, or that poor and insignificant family instead of to a wealthy or influential one. 

In what should have been her season of joy, Mary had good reasons for tears! But she kept things to herself, and went to her cousin, whom the angel had said was pregnant in her old age. And when Mary found Elizabeth, everything changed.

In Luke 1: 39 – 45, we read how Elizabeth encouraged Mary. Even John the Baptist, who Elizabeth was pregnant with, leaped in her womb at the very voice of the one pregnant with the Messiah. Elizabeth’s response was just what Mary needed to hear. In Luke 1: 46 – 55, we read Mary’s lovely response in the antiphonic poem called the Magnificat.

Mary’s praise glorifies God. Through her fears, in spite of her tears, Mary chooses to see the greatness of God instead of the smallness and harshness of her situation. She deliberately chooses to be joyful, not just happy, but to downright rejoice and celebrate over God and His love for her. Mary’s poem is called the Magnificat because she magnifies God, and makes Him larger in her eyes than the problems she also sees before her.

Sometimes, like Mary, we find ourselves grieving when the rest of the world is rejoicing. As I write this, it’s less than a week before Christmas 2015. I have friends who are dealing with some tough, stressful and unhappy situations in their lives right now. While the rest of the world celebrates, they feel like the only offering they have to bring is that of their tears.

And you know what? If the only offering you have to bring is tears, it’s okay. God knows we walk through valleys sometimes. In fact, He walks through them with us! In Psalm 23, David wrote,

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me;

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23: 4

The rod of a shepherd is meant for their protection. The shepherd defends them from enemies using it, and also uses it to count them and make sure they are all healthy. The shepherd’s staff is used for guiding the sheep into positions of intimacy, either with each other or himself. Thus, to be comforted by God’s rod and staff is to fall under His protection and to be brought by Him into a place of great intimacy with both Him and others of His choosing. This is a place of great comfort indeed when we walk through valleys!

Another thing to remember as we walk through valleys is that hurting people often hurt people. It’s a great temptation when we’re wounded to strike out, so we can protect ourselves and not be hurt more. But the more we lean into God, the greater we seek the protection of His rod and the comfort of His staff, the smaller the temptations become to use our own pain as an excuse to hurt others. 

As we go through our seasons of walking on mountain tops or through valleys together, it is good for us all to remember no one else is at the same point of their journey at the same time as we are, even when we travel together. May you have a blessed holiday season, and a joyful Christmas and find joy in your journey, even when your only offerings are tears.

 

Sunshine On Snow

Your glory is incomparable.

It has no equal, no rival.

Your love is unlimited.

It has no beginning, no end.

Your holiness is unparalleled.

It has no flaw, no spot.

You call us to be like You

To show Your glory

To a world that doesn’t know You;

To reflect Your love

To hungry, hurting people;

To shine Your holiness

To aching, lives sick with sin.

I want to shine Your glory

Like diamonds on a jewelers cloth.

I want to reflect Your love

Like an image in a mirror.

I want to show Your holiness

Like ice crystals sparkle in sunshine on snow.

When Life Just Stinks

Have you ever had a time in your life when you look at what’s going on and think, “This stinks!”?? How do you handle times like that?

Sometimes, we’re drawn up short by the harsh reality stuff in our life stinks. It might be because of illness (either yours or someone close to you). It might be because of financial difficulties. It might be because you get an unexpected shock, like hearing of the death of someone you loved. Or it might be because of a combination of stuff. No matter the causes, the stinky realities in our lives exist. Sometimes, we can prevent these stinky realities. However, often we cannot. They just happen to us, with nothing we can do or say to prevent it. In Matthew 5:45, Jesus is quoted as saying,

He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Both unfair and fair, stinky and wonderful, things happen to all of us. Sometimes they are a result of our actions, because as I’ve said before, actions have consequences. But often it’s just sun and rain, as Jesus said. I thought at one point of calling this post, “Life Isn’t Fair,” until I remembered something I always told our kids. Life isn’t fair.

Gifts like intelligence, beauty, humor, birth place and wit are doled out completely unfairly. Curses like illness, sudden death, poverty, birth place and handicapping conditions are equally unfairly measured. (Yes, I just said “birth place” twice, for a reason. Think about it.) People who “deserve” good things to happen to them have bad things happen, instead of the good we believe they deserve.. And the opposite is just as true, too. Any way we look at it, life just isn’t fair.

It’s a common misconception in people going through painful circumstances that no one understands what they are going through. But as we’ve just learned, everyone goes through them. So, what do we do when our life seems to stink? How do we cope? Some people cope by escapism. They seek relief in mindless games or television, activities or other distractions. Speaking as someone who has tried escapism, I can tell you it doesn’t work. All it does is put off the issues until we come out of our escapism reveries. Then, we still have to face them.

Some people cope by medicating their emotions with alcohol, drugs or food. They drink, use drugs or eat to feed the inner hunger or numb the inner pain caused by the outer circumstances. Speaking as someone who has tried medicating my issues (my drug of choice being food), I can tell you it doesn’t work, either. Like escapism, all it does is put things off. Unfortunately, if we abuse these medicating tendencies too much, it also adds addictions, weight and/or long term problems we have to deal with for years after the original painful issues have disappeared.

Some people cope by withdrawing. They close in on themselves emotionally, and sometimes physically, and shut the world out. They may or may not do what is necessary to continue the mechanics of daily living, but when they do, it’s mechanical. There’s no joy in their journey. But when we withdraw, the challenges from which we are withdrawing don’t go away. Often, the very act of withdrawal can make them worse.

Sometimes, we cope by reaching out. We seek a listening ear to pour our troubles. In moderation, this is a healthy coping mechanism. Receiving the gift of compassionate listening from another person is a great way of realizing we’re not alone, that others have traveled similar roads, and we will survive this, too. The challenge we face is not to overwhelm our listeners and being viewed as being too needy. Compassion has its limits, too, and we have to remind ourselves of that sometimes.

Besides reaching out, my personal favorite method of coping with hard times is with prayer in my Christian faith. When I pray, I reach out to God, who, in the words of the Old Testament, is named

The name of God is Elohim – My Creator

The name of God is El Roi – God Who Sees

The name of God is Adonai – My Lord, My Master

The name of God is El Shaddai – God Almighty

The name of God is Jehovah Nissi -The LORD Our Banner

The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies

The name of God is Jehovah Jireh – The LORD Will Provide

The name of God is Jehovah Ezer -The LORD our Helper

The name of God is Jehovah Roi – The Lord is My Shepherd

The name of God is Jehovah Rapha – LORD Who Heals

The name of God is Jehovah Sabaoth – LORD of hosts (of armies)

The name of God is Jehovah Shalom – The LORD our Peace

The name of God is Jehovah Mekeddeshem – LORD Who Sanctifies

The name of God is Jehovah Shammah – The LORD is There

In times of trouble, when life just stinks, I especially love the ones I made bold! Why?

  • God Sees me. I am not forgotten, lost in a sea of humanity. I am noticed.
  • God is my Helper. I am not without Someone to help me. I have a strong Defender.
  • God is my Banner. He goes before me to fight off what troubles me, and to carry the banner of His victory over sin, death and Satan with Him
  • God is my Healer. When it hurts, he heals my body, my heart, relationships, finances and everything that’s broken in my life.
  • God is my Peace. When all is craziness around me, He is my Sanctuary, my place of rest.
  • God is There. He is ever-present. I don’t have to worry about where my friends are. I am not alone.

My faith helps me to keep going, to hold on, even when times are hard and life just stinks. It helps me to fight off my tendencies to escape or medicate my pain with overeating (or eating stuff I know I shouldn’t). It helps me to more than cope, to more than survive. It helps me emerge stronger and better than ever. By now you might be saying, “Sure, she can talk that way. She doesn’t know what I am going through!” You’re right; I don’t. But at the same time, you don’t know where I am walking now, either. That’s neither here nor there, except to say I’m in a painful place as I write this, going through tough stuff. But as the Native American proverb said,

Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.

I’m not walking in your moccasins, as it were, and you’re not walking in mine. But I am still walking, and I do have a question for you: Are you still walking? Are you still moving on, or are you escaping, medicating or withdrawing?

Come, let’s walk together.

Re-Post: Gratitude – A Thanksgiving Prayer

This is a re-post.  I am also very grateful and thankful for our U.S. military, who serve us at home and abroad so thanklessly all year, and for our first responders, who do the same at home!!

I’m thankful for the flowers.

Fall Foliage at the New York Botanical Garden

I’m grateful for the trees.

I’m awestruck with all nature

And all its wondrous beauty.

I’m thankful for the animals,

For the ones so wild and free,

And for those who life as friends

Among us, loving me.

Blubbertail in the window

I’m thankful for the heavens

And their great bright starry host.

And I’m grateful for the seasons;

There’s not one I don’t love the most.

I’m thankful for the valleys,

And the mountains soaring so high,

And I’m grateful for the oceans

And the water’s abundant supply.

The 2007 U.S. National Christmas Tree is lit o...

I’m thankful for my family,

My children, bright and strong,

And how my spouse still loves me

When I am in the wrong.

And I’m grateful for the people

Whose love will never end,

Both family and others,

The ones I’m proud to call “Friend.”

Our Family Portrait, 2008

I’m mostly thankful, though, Lord,

For the love I’ve come to know

In the ways You gently touch my heart

And cause me to quietly grow.

I’m grateful also, dear Lord,

For the gifts You’ve given me,

And the way You teach me how to use them

So you can set other spirits free.

Lord (Jesus)

I’m thankful for it all, Lord,

For this life that I call “Mine,”

And I’m asking You to help me

To be thankful more of the time.

And I’m asking You to shake me up

When I have a bad attitude,

That others might be drawn to You

Through my life of humble gratitude.

Destiny

Destiny foretold

Since time began.

From times of old

There was a plan.

Justice spoke wrath

To the first sinners there.

And hope showed a path,

Love’s mercy to share.

*

Destiny foreknew

As the prophets foretold.

Seeing futures true

As the Spirit foretold.

A family, a line,

A Messiah, a King:

In the fullness of time

Sweet salvation to bring.

*

Destiny captured

In the virgin birth.

Angels sing raptures

Of the Holy Child’s worth.

Shepherds come and adore

And gifts wise men bring,

All fitting for the Lord

And King of all Kings.

*

Destiny revealed

In an old rugged cross.

Messiah giving ransom

For the souls of the lost.

Emmanuel, God with us,

Who died in man’s place.

The only sinless sacrifice

To give man atoning grace.

*

Destiny rewarded

With the rise of the third sun.

An empty tomb is revealed,

And the living Holy One.

The mission is completed

The victory’s won.

Death’s curse is repealed;

Messiah’s work here is done.

*

(December 24, 2007 — Begun during Pastor Kenn Cobb’s Christmas Eve sermon, when he spoke of Jesus’ “destiny revealed” in the Cross.)

On Intimacy With Immensity, Parts 1 and 2

These poems reflect the place I was in my relationship with God at the time I wrote them.  The first was 10 years ago.  The second was 2010.  The difference was taking a class focused around Ed Piorek’s DVD series The Father Loves You .  It changed my perspective of Father God, my relationship with Him, and is based on Galatians 4:6,

Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

It is my prayer you find joy in the Father’s love!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

             On Intimacy With Immensity 

 You are so big . . .

          Your power created the universe;

                   All the things I see, all I cannot.

          Your wisdom smoothly runs it

                   Without raising a sweat on Your brow.

          Your majesty is seen in it

                   But only as a dim reflection of Your glory.

And You want to be intimate

With small and insignificant me.

 *

 

You are so loving . . .

          You forgive the worst sinners

                    When they come to You in repentance.

          You came to give Yourself for us

                   While we were yet sinners all.

          You would have done it if all the world were perfect

                   Except for one poor, sinful soul.

And You want to pour out this love

On someone as undeserving as me.

 *

 

You are so powerful . . .

          All You have to do is think

                   And amazing things happen.

          You decided all the laws of the universe,

                   And go outside them as You choose.

          There is nothing that happens anywhere

                   That You don’t know of it before it occurs.

And You want to share Your power

Pouring it into a life as powerless as mine.

*

I can’t think of this too often,

          You know.

You are so immense.

          And I am so small.

You are so loving.

          And I am so insignificant.

You are so powerful.

          And I am so weak.

But for all our many differences,

          You demand intimacy between us.

And of all the things I’ve ever thought of,

          This is the most amazing one:

To have intimacy with Your immensity

           Is a thing my mind can never comprehend.
 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Abba’s Lap

(On Intimacy With Immensity, Part II) 

 

Abba,

          The world is cold, and lonely, and hard.

                   It is unforgiving of my struggles, and faults, and failings.

Abba,

          Can I climb into Your lap for a while?

 

*

 

Abba,

          The world is big, and I am but small.

                   The world is frightening, and I am scared.

Abba,

          You are bigger than the big, scary world.

                   Can I climb into Your lap and be safe?

 

*

 

Abba,

          My heart is broken and hurting.

                   The world has cast it aside like a discarded  and unwanted

                    toy.

Abba,

          When I bring my heart to You, will You fix it for me?

 

*

 

Abba,

The world takes such joy, such delight in shredding my life, my

hopes,

my dreams like a small child would paper.

Abba,

          When I bring You the shattered pieces, can You, will You, fix

          them

                   and fix me?

*

 

Abba . . .

          Abba . . .

                   Abba . . .

*

Child.  Beloved Child.  Come here, Beloved Child.  Come up.