For Those Stuck in Good Friday

Do you remember when Saturdays were always about church planting updates? They will be again, soon, next week even… 

easter People

The year my Dad died Easter came early, March 27, only about a week after his heart attack and the Sunday after his funeral.

Because of this, a church decorated in purple crosses and white lilies doesn’t feel like Easter morning to me, it still loudly echoes the throes of Good Friday.

Every year, no matter when Easter falls in relation to the anniversary of my Father’s death, the songs and smells of Easter are deeply reminiscent of his funeral.

Faith gets real when you’re faced with Easter morning and your heart feels firmly rooted in the worst hours of Good Friday.

Sometimes Easter Sunday doesn’t happen in three days

Because in life, our Good Fridays last longer than a day, longer than the hour of a church service or the time it takes to reflect upon the stations of the cross. There are, in fact, entire seasons, even years of our lives that take place on Holy Saturday.

The day in between the ripping of the cross and the glory of the empty tomb. A day of waiting, of wondering, a seemingly hopeless day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

I remember visiting my fathers grave before the funeral flowers had a chance to wither and shrivel, begging God for some sort of miracle. Bring him back now, fix this now, I want my Easter Sunday healing now, please.

Make this all go away, cause me to awake in my bed back home, awash in relief that this was all a nightmare.

Please God, bring me an Easter miracle today or Surely the depth of this grief will be the thing that defines my life, that undoes me. I cannot live in a world where this is my reality.

But we do, don’t we? We live in a world with awful realities. 

We live seasons, even years stuck between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, where we wake up on Holy Saturday wondering if our hearts can weather another day of waiting and wondering.

Anne Lammott put it perfectly when she said “we are Easter people living in a Good Friday world. And I think that every year the world seems more of a Good Friday world. And it’s excruciating, whether it’s Japan, or Libya, or whether its your own best friends and their children who are sick, which is something that makes no sense when you think about a loving God.”

So for all of us who feel the weight of the Good Fridays, the Holy Saturdays, who will experience Easter Sunday with more than a few bones to pick with God, with a laundry list of “but hows.”

To all of you I just want to say: “Hi and me too.”

I understand and it’s okay to lament more than you rejoice on Easter Sunday.

I understand how suicide, depression, infertility, hate, hunger and abuse can make you feel stuck, make you wonder if Easter Sunday is a real

Wonder where God is in light of this unspeakable pain.

For those of us who are kneeling of the grave of someone or something, skeptical that the pure light of the empty tomb could touch us.

For you I pray light, small, grace-filled light that sustains gently.

I pray God send gracious friends, able to sit with you in your black, Holy Saturday questions.

I pray God a spring breeze to remind your senses that there are miracles all around you, and they will meet you in your anger and all your “how could you Gods?” 

I pray that something about this weekend brings you all the hope you can handle, and no more.

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It’s not easy to live between the two, to be Easter people in a Good Friday world, don’t let anyone convince you otherwise.

I pray that you may experience Easter Sunday for what it is: A promise of healing that brings hope for our right now, a set it all right someday vow that isn’t always easy to to hold on to, but true and life changing regardless. 

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How a motorcycle picture made me cry because the church nailed it.

Today I want to talk about those moments where church felt like The Church, like everything it was supposed to be and nothing it wasn’t.

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It was every mother’s worst nightmare.

Okay not their WORST nightmare but still, it was a nightmare.

My children and I arrived for church on time, got our bagels and coffee and headed to their children’s church rooms only to discover that children’s church was on a holiday that Sunday.

And I hadn’t a crayon or matchbox car or board book on my person.
And I was meeting friends for “big church.”
And I wanted to sit down and cry because without children’s church it’s very hard for me to meet up with God in big church.

Yet we carried on and made our way to the usual row of plastic chairs while I gave my kids a pep talk: “Okay guys, we can do this! It’s good to be still and AFTER the singing you can take turns with my iPhone and coloring on this bulletin with a golf pencil. I understand that you’re sad about your church being closed, me too, but we’re in this together, okay?”

Okay. Here goes nothing. I can do this… No I can’t let’s just go home… no… teachable moment! teachable moment! 

We sang, the teaching started and my kids took turns playing Angry Birds and scribbling with the golf pencil.

My dear friend Alyssa shared pens with Noelle and allowed her to kiss her as many times as she wanted, which with Noelle is always at least a couple dozen. She’s a kisser, should this worry me? 

They got noisy any time it was “their turn” to surrender the iPhone.

They fidgeted and switched positions

Then suddenly I looked over at the chair my son was sitting on and realized he was holding a drawing of a jeep.

What the what?

I looked around and soon I’d figured it out, the gentleman sitting in the row behind us, a father of older boys, was drawing pictures. For my kids. He looked up from his next creation and shrugged with a smile.

As I gave him my “You sir are a saint” look his wife passed Caedmon a colorful pen he could use to color in the jeep.

A few moments passed when I realized that Caedmon now had a drawing of a motorcycle AND a jeep. I turned around with another grateful look while the lady behind me mouthed “been there” and smiled.

I was able to focus on the sermon for a while and before long I looked over and saw Noelle holding a drawing of a horse. And these were good drawings people, like art quality sketches.

At this point I cried happy tears from some place deep, some place that identified with what Christ wanted his church to be for each other and the world.

As my friend helped Noelle with her Pony and Caedmon zoomed his motorcycle paper it hit me.

This is church, This is how it’s supposed to be. It’s never really been about the music or the bulletins or the teaching style… that’s all good but THIS IS CHURCH! 

This is two or three gathered in his name and actively making that name known to each other.

It’s not a crowd of people rolling their eyes at the woman with the noisy preschoolers. It’s drawing motorcycles and receiving kisses and above all else fostering the idea that we really are in this together.

And don’t we all need those moments where the church nails it to keep going? To keep showing up?

I don’t always have to be on the receiving end of things, I don’t believe in being a church consumer, I just need to regularly break down in tears over the obvious love of Jesus coming to life around me.

I do. I need to cry about it.

Or else I will forget what we’re really doing and get lost in church budgets and ministry plans and mission statements.

Then I’ll get cynical. And when I’m cynical I’m not compassionate and when I’m not compassionate I can’t hear what the Spirit needs me to be doing.

Then I start thinking about only myself and rationalizing a whole bunch of selfish things and throwing out a whole slew of judgements at those around me.

I need the healing of tears, weekly if not daily.

My prayer for us this this week is that we are all brought to tears because the love of Jesus showed up, because the Church nails it.

Not the buildings, Not the committees, The people. The Church.

I pray that every person who reads this plays a part in warming up our cold, gray world with a love that says “here I want to lift you up and I’m willing to give up something up to get us there, because you matter, your life, your struggles are not annoying me… in fact I want to share them.”

I’m willing to draw a motorcycle so that you can get a bit more sermon in your ears.
I’m willing to give up some fun money so you have money for gas and food.
I’m willing to give up time so your marriage has a fighting chance.
I’m willing to get there late so you don’t have to spend another second stuck in a snowbank.

Because you matter and if I’m thriving and you’re struggling then I’m doing it all wrong.

So as we plant a church, I’m setting a goal to cry more, to stay tender, to bear witness to more moments when we the Church… nail it.

Had the (big c) church brought you to joyful tears lately?
If you’re still cynical is there a ray of hope? 

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My Elf-piphany (or why the Elf on the shelf bugs me)

I’m a bit of a joiner, when other people are doing something cool I tend to get excited and pull a “ooh something new and shiny, let’s do it!”

This is how we came into possession of an Elf on the Shelf.  It looked like so much fun online that I wanted a piece of the Christmas whimsy. I still wasn’t sure how we would do Santa with our two young kids, but I was going for it on the elf front.

I marched into the Hallmark store and marched right back out with $30 less in my bank account and a bag full of Elf.  In a shockingly large box.

If you don’t know the whole concept behind the Elf on the Shelf, here it is: you pay $30 for a little doll who is Santa’s is secret spy for your family. You tell your kids that he’s watching them, that he’ll let Santa know if they’re good or bad. Then you move him every evening (or frantically in the morning because you forgot) to fun and quirky new places in the house. The kids are instructed NOT to touch him or he will lose his magic.  

I got into it for the whimsy, for the hope of a fun tradition our children would remember and smile on years later.

But this year, it’s bothered me endlessly, I resent that little red bugger. Something doesn’t feel right about it in the pit of my stomach.

IMG_1086 Sometimes when our two year old son was extra obnoxiously naughty and hitting his sister in the head with matchbox cars or smearing the table in oatmeal, I’d pull the elf card. “Caedmon, do you want Santa to see you being naughty? You could lose a present. The Elf is seeing you do that.”

Then emotional vomit would come up in my throat and I’d walk away feeling like a horrible person and parent.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

Then two nights ago I had an Elf-piphany.

It started when I decided to have the Elf, who by the way we named Mr. BoJingles, write our children a note that my four year old super star, starting to read daughter Noelle could practice on in the morning.

So I scrambled for some green paper and a nice pen and wrote out this:

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“Dear Noelle and Caedmon, Christmas is only three days away, so be good!  Love Mr BoJingles.”

Then I got a little of the ol’ Elf nausea (this could be because I had the stomach bug at the time) “This isn’t right, this is bothering me… why?”

Then I had a true lightbulb of a moment.

“Oh my God, GRACE!”  I shouted at myself in the quiet of the dining room.  But you know, not so loud as to wake up the kids because, priorities.

The Elf on the shelf, as done by the book, flies in the face of grace because we can’t tell our children both these things:

1) Jesus is the whole reason behind Christmas, it’s the day we celebrate that God sent him to the Earth to save us. We give presents to each other to celebrate the fact that Jesus was the best gift ever given.
AND
2) If you’re not good, a magical fat man will take away your presents.

You can’t have both grace and works.  It is out of LOVE we were sent Christ, it is by GRACE we are saved, it is because of this LOVE and GRACE that my (mostly) healthy heart loves to give my children good gifts.

Gifts they do not have to earn. Gifts it would break my heart to take away from them.  Gifts I poured myself into and cannot wait to delight them with.

The Elf on the Shelf concept can’t coexist with the freely given love and grace of the nativity without creating dissonance.

The same dissonance I’d been hearing all season bust just now finally identified.

Do I want my children to live in the ways of Scripture? Absolutely.  But not because they’re afraid of lightening bolts from heaven or a God who will swoop in and steal the good things from their lives.

I want them to long for their Father because they trust him, love him, believe that in his word is the key to the richest, deepest, best possible life on Earth.

So Elf, you can stay for the next two days, but I’m watching both you and my own words. We will rethink you for next year.  You may get the boot, you may be repurposed into another tradition.

But you won’t steal the grace we’re cultivating in these walls, you won’t cause my children to doubt the depth of the love I have from them or the deep beauty that is mingled between the nativity scene.

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O Come, O Come Emmanuel (printable and reflection)

(I’m an ENFP which means I have 375% more ideas than I have time for.  Yesterday I owed you a hymn reflection and printable, today I owe you a church planting post.  Our family has been down with the stomach bug all week so you’re getting the hymn because it’s what I need to write.  I promise to follow through more in 2014, refer back to line one of the this post and believe accordingly.)

We’re 4 days out from Christmas and I don’t know about you but I’m already sick of it. Not the Jesus part. The Rest of it.

The shopping, to do list, grocery run, stomach bug, mall frenzy, 72 email ads, cheap plastic side of it.

The part where you stop and go “wait, isn’t this supposed to be about Jesus?  Where’s my silent night?”

The part where you wonder how so much hate and division can be flying around between people who claim to celebrate the same baby this whole season is supposed to be about.

The part where you’re doing too much in the hopes that it will make everything feel okay.

The part where you can’t even fathom a holiday gathering without someone you’ve lost, where the thing you want for Christmas is certainly not going to happen.

The parts where our hearts are still in exile for either a healing that hasn’t come or a truth we’re sorely missing.

These are the parts that weigh on me while I’m standing in line at the store wondering why someone would pay an extra $5 for a gift card holder that will get immediately thrown away or while I’m sitting on my couch picturing Christmas scenes I want but can’t have.

These are the parts into which I need to pray this hymn. (listen to it here)

O Come, O Come Emmanuel
And Ransom Captive Israel
That mourns in Lowly Exile here
Until the son of God appears

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come thou dayspring, come and cheer
Our spirits by thine Advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
and death’s dark shadows put to flight

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel

O come desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid thou our sad division cease
And be thyself our King of Peace

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel has come to thee, O Israel

ocomeprintable
  A background of pain underneath the cry of the weary world, some of our most painful words with our cry scrawled over top, digital art that made me shake as I created it. You can print this out as an 8×10 or do what I’m going to do, save it as the home screen on your phone to remind you that Jesus is the cry of our most broken places. 

I’m pretty sure this wasn’t always my favorite Christmas hymn, but it is now.  It’s an aching, a cry for salvation that has already, but not yet happened.

It speaks of a nation in exile, unable to sing it’s songs in a foreign land where they are aching and stuck.

It was originally written in latin during the middle ages and over the past 800 years everything and nothing has changed.  We still ache, we still observe advent and recognize that while the baby has been born to us, there is so much he has yet to set right.  

The other day I was talking with my daughter Noelle about advent and getting ready for Jesus to be born.

“But Mom, Jesus already has been born.  That doesn’t make any sense.  Why would we wait for something that already happened.”

I let her win that one for now, because is confusing, isn’t it?  He came already yet still there is so much ache we don’t understand.

We mourn, we wail, we burry our faces in our hands some days and ache his his return, now, yesterday, sooner.

There is so much wrong with the world, but we have to remember something crucial, something hopeful. Many of the places that cry out for Emmanuel are places into which we can be the bearers of his love.  We cannot ourselves undo death, take away the memory of abuse or unsay hurtful words yet we are not powerless in the darkness.

But we can feed the hungry
We can invite the homeless in
We can speak love into hate
We can sit with the grieving and meet their needs
So many of the ways in which Emmanuel will come to us, is through the hands of his people.

And as easy as it is to get discouraged, there is hope.  There is reason to rejoice, may it not be all grief for you, not all aching, may there be hope and very real places in which he comes to you as we celebrate the day that changed the world forever.

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I want to be like my four year old daughter

Doesn’t it seem like we see it all on Halloween?  Super Mario Brother’s family? A dog dressed up like a latte?  Tony Stark and Pepper Potts?  (These are some of my personal faves from real life)

With the addition of the internet I don’t think many awesome costumes pass without our knowing about it.

But the most amazing part of my Halloween?  Watching my four year old pass out candy to other trick or treaters for the the first time in her life.

There are things about your children that are innate and have little to do with in-house parenting strategy.  They’re all nature and not much nuture.

Noelle’s encouraging spirit is one of those.  Can I be honest here?  I’m not the most encouraging person you’ll ever meet.  Although I’m working on all of this, my standards are too high and I’m an ENTP, who always sees room for improvement.

Then God gave me a tender, beautiful daughter from whom love and encouragement flows endlessly.

Halloween Noers

Last night when the first round of trick or treaters came to the door she held the candy cauldron with delight.

“Here guys, have some candy!  Great princess costume!  Good trick or treating guys!  Good job!  Thanks for coming!”

The phrase: “great trick or treating guys” undid me and I laughed as instant tears welled up in my eyes.  I had nothing to do with parenting that, that’s a piece of thread woven by a God who creates masterpieces when he makes people.

It was one of those moments where you see something on the face of the broken earth that rings so loudly of heaven it nearly brings you to your knees.

So pure and beautiful you don’t dare touch it because you’re sure you’ll screw it up.

As the evening went on she started to refer to the trick or treaters as customers and when some came while she was in the bath she wailed: “Mom, there’s customers and I’m naked! Dry me off and get my PJs, quick!”

Her face was a perpetual grin. She even complimented the people passing out candy on how well they did it. “You’re a great candy hander outer!  Thanks!”

There is no costume on earth that could have awed me as much as her spirit did on Halloween.

It amazed me and scared me to my core.  It caused me to sing God’s praises and beg for his help all in the same breathe because I don’t want to be the one who infects her heart with cynicism.

I don’t want to be one of the reasons she stops loving so purely.

When we see something of heaven down here on earth, we can react a myriad of different ways.

We can write it off, too busy to fit it’s wonder in our busy schedules.
We can take a picture or memento to try and remind ourselves of what was and could be someday.
As for me?  I am going to hit my knees and pray for the wisdom to nurture the beauty entrusted to me, a tongue that flows words like water, less muddied as the years go on.

Pray for a spirit that looks a little bit more like my daughter’s, so: “Great blog reading guys, thanks for coming!”

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Day 12: Here, With Holes.

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Today would have been my Dad’s 58th birthday. Some days it seems as though it’s been forever since I had a father to call and then other moments I think to ask him something. Still, 8.5 years later.

Usually it’s for advice on cars or painting. but I’m still wired to go to my Dad for help when things get overwhelming.

I know the cliché Christian thing to say here is that I should pray and talk to my Daddy God in these moments.

I hate to disappoint you, but it’s not the same, we are wired for God and for people and when people make an exit it leaves gaping holes in our hearts.  It leaves us with a void that cannot and should not be filled this side of heaven. Continue reading

Heaven and Matchbox Cars (guest post at Deeper Family)

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I’m an orphaned adult, I have been since I was 28. It’s about as tough as you would
imagine it is, this parentless existence, but the pain is sharpest when I reflect on all my
children are missing out on, the grandparents they will never have.

There is a very real ache that comes from realizing that your parents will never meet
your children. Never play out all the imaginary scenarios they created in their minds
when they projected their lives forward.

It flies in the face of how things were supposed to be. They should be here, grilling at
birthday parties and buying cutesy outfits at SAMs club. Their faces were supposed to
grace the snapshots of our lives, all covered in mud and frosting and childhood.

As a parent, I have to swallow this lump most of the time and focus on what we do 
have, how richly we are blessed and all that can still be. So I bring them to life for my
children with stories and photographs and a few old VHS videos of family camping trips.

I tell them about Mommy’s Mommy and Daddy, that they’re in heaven and that I miss
them a lot.

On my brightest and best days I raise thankful hands, for we are loved as a family,
adopted and held by a group of people I count as family, as essential, each one an
unspeakable gift.

On my darker days? I feel jilted and harbor jealous resentment toward my friends for
simply having parents. For posting grandpa pictures on Facebook and sending their
kids to “grandma camp.” This sucks twice because it leaves me feeling like an orphan
AND a bad friend.

The other day, in a slump of melancholy, I let it slip to my four year old daughter that
everything dies: people, animals, flowers, all of it. At first I thought she’d brush it off and
go back to her daydreamy play, but instead she burst into tears.

Because I’d just hit her with one of life’s harshest realities, the one that breaks our
hearts from the moment we internalize it.

Please click over to Deeper family to finish up this post and if it’s your first time there, dig in, it’s really one of the most beautiful blogging collectives online.

Smaller, Weaker, Loved, Held.

I never had any reservations about moving back to West Michigan, even though I knew that the ghosts of my life hover more prominently in the curbs and corners of this place.

As I drive the tree lined roads of my hometown, my mind flashes back to the days I when experienced these streets not from the driver’s seat but from the back seat of the mini van.

Back when I was the little one with small control and big questions.

Now I have big control, or at least big responsibility, and the questions have only grown and gained weight.  Losing both my parents so quickly stole all my rights to feel like a kid and left behind the awful realization that I can’t “go home again.”

I know that I’m the parent now and I know that the home I’m cultivating will become my own children’s childhood, with all it’s wonders and perhaps all it’s resentment… but still I want to be the kids sometimes, to go home.

Don’t we all?  Don’t you?

Most of the time I love my motherhood and I love being the woman of the house… but sometimes?  I want to curl up on my mom’s lap and feel her flannel nightgown against my tear-stained cheek.

I long to confess to her that there are moments when I don’t feel like I can do it.  And would she tell me it’s okay?  And would she please run her fingers through my hair, just a little while longer?

I want ask my Dad why our mini van sometimes shimmies when it’s changing gears, I want to know that he’s there with his dolly to check things out should they go awry.  I want to serve him a plate of balsamic pork tenderloin and listen to all the ways he loves his grandchildren.

I’ve moved back home and realized that this Orphaned adult thing is so much harder when you’re constantly driving past the spots where it all fell apart.  The house, the train tracks, the cemetery.

I ache for them as I begin to create some of the same memories we made with my own children.  I can’t bring myself to visit their graveside yet.  Not even on memorial day.  There are other spots where they are no longer alive that I must deal with first.

Sometimes, in the middle of the day, sometimes in the middle of a task I fall onto our bed exhausted and pull my knees up to my chest and I feel way too big and not nearly brave enough.

nesting dolls

Continue reading

Suicide As Mercy: a strange and confusing calling home

(trigger warnings, suicide, depression)

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This past Saturday the news broke that Pastor Rick Warren’s 27 year old son Matthew had taken his life after a life-long battle with depression.

Within a few hours I received several messages from friends online to this effect: “thinking of you as I read this news and praying for their family and yours.”

At first I didn’t know how to feel, coming to mind whenever someone encounters suicide.  But then I realized that people think of me because I have a unique perspective on this devastating type of loss.

As for me, every time I hear of someone taking their life I freeze up and a lump the size of a grapefruit forms in my throat.  My mind drifts off to the family receiving the raw news, their souls smacked with the impossibility of it.  The grasping denial leading to utter confusion.

About a month back I was asked to help with childcare for a funeral at a local church, so we loaded the car with diapers and Gluten Free snacks and headed off to help.  I was chatting lightly with a friend when she was told that we were working a suicide funeral.

I spent the rest of the morning in a shroud of memories and heartache, reliving the moment where I curled up on the bathroom counter, unable to speak or cry after my brother called to deliver the news of my own Mother’s suicide.

My mind flashed back to her funeral, slowly dragging my weary body down the aisle behind my mother’s casket.  Turning around a seeing hundreds of familiar faces, all in shock that she took her life.

We hung on every word the pastor said, hoping he’d give us something to make sense of it all.

I haven’t known all forms of grief, but I think suicide grieving is a rare bird, a hard road, a lifetime of thoughts to be sorted through.

How could they do this?
Why couldn’t life be enough for them?
Didn’t the love we shared matter?
What could we have done differently?
And the hardest one for me:  Why didn’t God send healing?

Scriptures like John 14:14 still make me a little angry.

“You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.”

Inwardly I ask God what fault he found in my prayers for my Mom?  What spiritual blockage was stopping Him from breaking through the crust of her pain and depression?

Why didn’t He send healing and deliverance?  Why didn’t He hear our prayers and set her free, deliver her from that evil pain?

Those who lose loved ones to Mental Illness have an especially cruel burden to carry because many people question the faith of the deceased.  They wonder if their journey with Christ was phony and negated by the manner of their death.

I get it, even I went through a season of questioning my Mother’s faith, it’s hard to figure out what happens to the soul while the mind languishes in pain.

Yet in the end I will tell you that my Mother died from depression, that her mental illness finally ended her life.  Just as breast cancer or heart disease may have stolen someone you love, depression stole my Mother.

Some days, good days, I see her as brave and long suffering.  She fought against her depression for over 30 years, for my entire life and longer.

My mother placed her daughter in a group home and buried her husband on a cold March afternoon and still she fought on.

She lived in her own private, painful world and got up every morning to fight another day for years, until one evening she couldn’t anymore.  On that evening, tragically, depression won the battle.

On the days when I see her as brave, I view her death as the most confusing kind of mercy I’ve ever come across.

Sometimes I wonder if God’s timing was right and he called her home in a way that we on earth cannot mentally process.  It seems like the most heretical thing in the world, suggesting that God uses suicide to call a child home, yet Cancer ends in death and no one questions it.

I’m not sure, even I don’t know what to do with this idea, suicide as mercy.  

But can you imagine going years without feeling joy?  I’m not sure I want to even try.

I found a lot of connection in the letter that Pastor Warren wrote: “Kay and I often Marveled at his courage to keep moving in spite of relentless pain.  I’ll never forget how, many years ago, after another approach had failed to give relief, Matthew said: “Dad I know I’m going to heaven, why can’t I just die and end this pain?”

The Warrens view their son as a courageous man who fought on for years and not as a quitter who took the easy road out.  And I get it, really I do.

There’s no easy answer or black and white perspective when it comes to suicide. But, for those who have seen the long suffering of our loved one, a beatitude that describes depression perfectly, sometimes we wonder if it is a mercy.

A strange and confusing calling home.

Join me in praying for the Warren family as they burry their beloved son this week.  Pray also that we as a church give grace and love and that harsh words and judgement be minimal if not non-existant.  

(If you are considering suicide, please seek help immediately, please don’t this as an encouragement to take your life.  Call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255)

He Messy, Bloody Loves Us

If you spend much time in the church or around Christ followers you’ve heard these words a thousand times:

“God loves you.”

We’re conditioned to it, we see it on billboards and t-shirts, hear it in song lyrics and on the lips of people on the street corner.

“God loves you!”

Where does your mind go when you hear these words?  Do you think of something small like a latte or a car?

Have these words lost their power over your soul from overuse?  I’d like to go out on a limb and say that I think that for all of us, they have.

I have to confess that lately I’ve become keenly aware of where my mind goes when I think about the love God has for me.  And you know what I’ve found?  I focus on the small potatoes, the very temporary, the daily bread type of gifts, this isn’t bad but it’s certainly not all.

Yes God is good, we’ve sold our home and found a rental.
Yes God loves me, we have enough grocery money to for milk, eggs and bananas.
Yes God loves me, we have two beautiful children.
Yes, God loves me, I’ve found time to pray over a warm cup of coffee in the dimly lit morning of our living room near my favorite Target lampshade.  I am blessed.

Yes, these are good gifts, 1,000 gifts worth counting.

But, I have to confess that all too often I forget that it is ever so much bigger than my cup of coffee.  Not only has he given me bread, children and a new house in my home state but he has set me free.

Free.  Free.  Free.

Free from defining my life by these small things.
Free from the relentless dance of earning my salvation
Free from fear
Free from sin
Free from death.

messy bloody loves

Yes, coffee, Yes houses but guys…. freedom from sin and death?  Hope in the direst moments of grief?  A copy of the final chapter?

A knowledge that he is going to set every painful thing back to right and quench the thirst of a creation that cries for him?  I’m sorry but I need this so much more than I need bread.

Have we become desensitized to the true meaning behind the reminder that we are loved by the God of the universe?

Maybe I need a little less thanks for daily bread and a little more thanks for this freedom over death that, upon reflection makes me want to go in the backyard and dance like a fool in my pajamas, to hell with what the neighbors think.  (truthfully I think they expect crazy at this point)

We need both types of thankfulness, that of bread and of salvation but honestly? My thankfulness teeter-totter in uneven in favor of the small and temporary evidences of God’s love.

I see the small, the coffee and bread and I think that’s where it ends, I forget that it’s just the introduction to the book of love that God has written for me, for my life.

It’s Holy week, It’s Easter, and yes I am daily thankful for the small things, We are conditioned to pray for the daily bread.  It’s so good to do so.

But guys, he beat death, we win! I get to see my whole, restored redeemed parents again!

This pain and depression has an expiration date, the fighting the bickering, the death and suffering has already been licked.

God loves you, he forever beat death loves you, he messy, bloody loves you.

And all the people said…. Amen, Holy, Bloody, Beautiful Amen.x