That’s All You’ve Got?

Imagine – it’s your birthday. You’ve been wanting a certain something. You’ve dropped all of the perfect hints for the last six months. There is no doubt about what you really want.

The box is set before you. It is the exact size. It doesn’t weigh too much or too little. It shakes just right. You just know that all of the thinly-veiled hints have hit the mark.

Your own cleverness doesn’t even spoil your excitement because you really want this gift. In fact, your cleverness of having figured it out just fuels your eagerness to tear through the wrapping.

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Everyone Take Your Seats

Here we are at the beginning of a new school year. How do I know? Well, my social media feeds are filled with “first day of school” pics. Some are of little ones headed off to school for the first time. Others are of “when-did-they-get-so-big” ones headed off to their freshman year of college. 

Either way (and for all of those in between) – they are facing situations fraught with anxiety and anticipation. Concerning questions and joyful expectations collide in a cloud of confusion –

What is it going to be like away from mom? home? family? friends?

What is the new place going to be like?

Will there be room for me?

Will I be welcomed?

When will I see mom – home, family, friends – again?

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Store in a Cool, Dark Place

Have you ever trusted someone and been betrayed? Then you get past the hurt and place your trust with them again and they betray you all over again? Pretty soon, if that happens too many times, we draw certain conclusions about that person’s character. At some point, we lose our trust in them all together. We stop placing our faith in them.

Sometimes, we do something similar in our relationship with God. We pray to God for something. He doesn’t answer our prayers the way we’d like. 

We pull back a little trust.

We question His character.

We lose a little faith.

Prayers continue. We don’t like the answers. Pretty soon, we start feeling like all is lost.

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That Kind of Tired

You don’t need a medical degree to figure out that the stress from life’s events wreaks havoc on the physical body. Emotional stress tears our bodies apart from the inside out. Our mouths get dry. We can’t breathe. Our hearts, heads, and stomachs ache. We’re tired but we can’t sleep. Even if we did, we’re not that kind of tired.

You also don’t need a degree in theology to figure out that extreme stress can wreak havoc on the spiritual body. Sadness, grief, and sorrow are heavy. Sometimes, our souls simply cannot bear the weight. We are not that kind of strong.

That heaviness seeps down deep into our bodies. Deep – down into the very marrow of our bones. Deeper – down into the core of our cells. Even deeper – down into our very DNA. 

Sometimes this heaviness is not apparent to the outside world. Other times, it can’t be hidden. Whether others can see it or not – it drags us down. It makes us tired – but not the kind of tired than can be fixed with a nap or a jog around the block. It’s not that kind of tired. 

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There’s a Hole in My Bucket

Well, it’s Day Two of The Life I Didn’t Choose’s Scripture Journal Challenge. And, I’m still on track! (It really is all about small victories.)

Today’s verse is one that I found after Brooke’s accident and has become one of my favorite scripture verses:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the come we ourselves received from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7

The progression of comfort flows from God to us and then to others. Pretty simple concept to grasp. Yet, it only dawned on me for the first time (after literally hundreds of times reading this passage) – God’s comfort is intended for us, but it’s not meant for us.

Like manna from heaven, God’s comfort is endless – it abounds through Christ. It’s never gonna run out. We should accept it for ourselves, but we must pour it out to those around us.

God’s comfort is meant to be given away. We receive the comfort that we need and then we pass it along to the next person and the next and the next.

But that isn’t what we tend to do. Is it? I’m guilty of (at least) two trespasses where comfort is concerned. First, I tend to adopt the prideful attitude that says, “I can take care of myself. Step back. Let me show you how this grieving thing is done.”

Paul is reminding the Corinthians, and it applies as well today as then, that comfort is a team sport. There’s no “I” in comfort. We are incapable of self-soothing life’s sucker punches.

We are all like buckets needing to be filled with comfort. Yet, when we try to take care of ourselves, it is more like shutting off our buckets with a tight lid. That lid prevents comfort from being poured into our buckets. Buckets do not fill from the inside out.

We must lift the lid and open ourselves to the comfort that will fill us from the outside in. We must look outside our buckets to be comforted. First to God and then to others.

The other trap that trips me up – I cave to the notion that my own bucket must be overflowing before I have the capacity to comfort others. I plug up all of the holes in my bucket and wait for comfort to brim over. I stay really busy patching holes and trying to make my bucket all shiny for the world to see.

God does not equip us to repair our own buckets; He equips us to repair the buckets of others. It’s kinda like going to the hair salon. The hairdresser can make us look awesome from every angle. Yet, when I try to duplicate the style at home, the back of my head looks the time toddler Brooke cut her own hair. Just as a hairdresser can see us from different angles, others can see us from different angles. And, if we open our eyes – we can see others from all new angles.

Comforting works best when we ask God to provide us with a heart. His range of vision is perfect. He sees all of the hurts. Our capacity overflows when we seek to see through His lens.

What are we waiting for?

Dear Father, Give us a heart to see like you see. Give us your Spirit to comfort the broken-hearted. Give us the strength and humility to lift the lid from our own buckets to constantly be fed with your endless comfort that abounds through your son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for filling our buckets with an overflow of your comfort – even when it seems as if we leak more than we overflow. This we pray through. Amen!

SDG

That’s Gonna Leave a Mark – (but not for long)

Writing and journaling has been a true blessing in my personal grief journey. So when another blogger announced a “grief writing challenge,” I decided to join in. The gist of the challenge is to read, copy, and reflect over a different scripture passage for the next thirty days.

Here we are at day one and the passage is challenging – no pun intended.

Listen, I tell you a mystery. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true:

Death has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 

1 Corinthians 15:51-57

On the surface, the passage is somewhat straightforward. Paul was trying to help the early Christians wrap their heads around the physical transformation that must take place to our mortal bodies before entering into heavenly eternity. And, Paul is sharing a truth about the changes to take place that were not previously revealed in scripture. In other words, he’s revealing a mystery.

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Mending Fences

Loss – in all the forms in which it raises its ugly head in our lives – often blows through like a late summer twister. If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of tornadoes on the evening news (or in your social media fee), you’ve seen how they hop and skip across the landscape indiscriminately dispensing mercy and destruction. 

On one block – a pile of splinters and twisted wire. On the next – nary a blade of grass out of place. 

Loss does the same thing. It skips across the landscape of our lives indiscriminately dispensing mercy and destruction. One week, we may be the ones giving thanks that our manicured lawns and carefully curated flower beds are intact. Even so – there will come a time when we each will face a pile of splinters and twisted wire.

Loss reduces our boundaries (our personal fences) to a pile of rubble. And that’s assuming we had good fences before loss came blowing through town.

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