Turning the Other Cheek this Christmas

Hi Everyone, I’m joining my SheLoves Sisters here, and doing this: Advent Acts of Kindness. (Both links are very informative and helpful to explain the whole process which is actually very simple.)

I hope you’ll join me! For once let’s not just talk about decommercializing Christmas, and perhaps not even fight the hype. Instead, this project feels a little like turning the other cheek, to me. We’re not ranting about Santa, stores and stinginess. We’re not resolving, rejecting or reframing.

We are simply sharing the overflowing Love and Joy of Christ this Christmas, multiplying our giving, highlighting His generosity and loving others as He loves us. 

Merry Christmas!

Screenshot 2013-11-27 11.59.25

P.S. I know you hardcore “No Christmas ’till after Thanksgiving” folks are wagging your finger at me. Believe, I’ve been you (still am to a degree). But this project requires just a tiny bit of planning, so I figured I’d give you a head start. Also, perhaps we wouldn’t get so bent out of shape about Christmas overshadowing Thanksgiving if we behaved as we believe: Jesus didn’t just come once to a stable, but that He lives here and NOW in our hearts. 

Again, Merry Christmas!

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But why do I ev…

But why do I even worry about every moment having to contribute to productivity? We love going there. Our lives are hectic and stressed, and we’re often too ill to take advantage of small breaks. When our son is well enough and we can carve out the time … Why ever not?

For days afterwards, I don’t turn on the noisy radio, or stay up too late surfing on the internet til my eyes turn red and my brain numb. I am able to dwell with silence.

Dry land produces very little, the seed starved of moisture dies, or waits, dormant.

Physical places like these are the luminous corners of my life, the green ditches fermenting wonder.

I don’t visit them nearly often enough.

Comfort food for the creator’s soul…In the Ditch, by Anne-Marie Heckt 

read the rest of this delicious piece here

A Prayer for Syria

lovesyria_330

Abba,

We come to you in acknowledgment of, and deeply happy for your sovereignty. How frightening this world would be, our individual lives, if we were not fully persuaded of your mercy, everlasting loving kindness and unsurpassed power.

Oh Lord, we highly honor you; we praise your name. You have done miraculous things. You have been completely reliable in carrying out your plans from long ago.

Even from the threshold of your throne room, Father, I plead for those who do not yet know of your goodness, who are not familiar with your face. For those who are reading this, whose hearts are whispering prayers to an unknown god, I ask you to reveal yourself. Open their eyes to the complexity of your character, so that they can find rest and quietness for their souls, even as our world swirls with chaos.

You have turned cities into ruins, fortified cities into piles of rubble, and foreigners’ palaces into cities that will never be rebuilt That is why strong people will honor you, and cities ruled by the world’s tyrants fear you. 

Lord, I pray your word over those in Syria and throughout the world, who hope to wake each morning and who tuck their children in at night, praying at least for painless death. I ask you to comfort them because we know that there is no god besides you, there is no leader or world power that can stand against you.

You silence the song of tyrants, like heat that is reduced by the shadow of a cloud. 

Father, we confess that death scares us. Death looms low over our soldiers and over even the defenseless women and children of Syria. But death is no match for you.

You will swallow up death forever. The Almighty Lord will wipe away tears from every face, and he will remove the disgrace of His people from the whole earth. 

We will say loudly, with confidence and trust, “This is our God; we have waited for Him, and now He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him. Let us rejoice and be glad because He will save us.”

Lord for centuries, nations have desired peace and found it elusive. We have built armies and written treaties. We have stashed weapons and called for truces. We have held peace talks and lied to the faces of our friends. Lord, we confess that we cannot manufacture peace. But…

You will establish peace for us, since you have done everything for us. O Lord, our God,  we have allowed other idols to rule over us, but today we acknowledge You Alone. 

We pray in the sovereign name of The Prince of Peace, Jesus, Amen

Letter From God

In college, I had a poster full of catchy quotes phrased as if God were talking to me. The last quote, at the very bottom of the poster said:

This is God.Today I will be handling All of your problems for you. I do Not need your help. So, have a nice day.
I love you.

This recent post at She Loves Magazine reminded me of that simple, easily forgotten thought. Maybe you needed to hear that today…

How I Discovered I’m Not the Boss of the World, by Angela Doell

Image credit: http://carpatys.com/my-god-good.html
Image credit: http://carpatys.com/my-god-good.html

Encouragement from SheLovesMag

A can’t miss this from SheLovesMagazine!

“I keep thinking I can’t grasp resurrection. I can’t grasp the complete turn from decay to limitless life. How can I really relate to Jesus?  I know He’s here, and I can tell you all sorts of right things to think about him. But feeling that resurrection as a physical reality. Hmmm …” by Anna Marie Heckt

Took the Words Right out of My Mouth

A supernova in the Large Magellanic Cloud, which lies about 160,000 light years from Earth.

(and might have said it better)

“If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,

If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,

Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.

I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.

You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.” Isaiah 58:9-12 (The Message

This is part of a post over at She Loves Magazine. Catherine gives a perfect preface for what I will talk about a little next week. Go read the rest of her post here…

Broken Hallelujah: SheLovesMagazine

Broken Hallelujah. For a while now, I’ve been whole, or healing. Sure, I have a long list of cracks, dents and crevices. I fought with anorexia for a good 14 years. That left my body broken. Even after I had recovered mostly once, some of the weak spots began to leak again, letting in fear and old habits. The ache of brokenness came back. Many, many days I found myself dissolving on the floor in tears. The agony was fissures of helplessness, starting rivulets in downward spiral. I was sliding down the mouth of death’s cavern. My soul hurt even more than my body.

And I cried out in brokenness.

Hallelujah means “Praise Yahweh.” And I recently learned that “praise” actually means “to project” which is one way that it differs from worship. Worship can be silent, internal song, wonder and fellowship with God. But praise is vocal. It declares the glories and sufficiencies of God for others to hear.

Goodness knows, I cried out. Sometimes I screamed at God. Sometimes, on a lonely walk I sang an off-tune song of prayer. My praise came in waves of despair, but that despair was matched and surpassed by knowing Yahweh Rophe, the God who Heals. When my voice broke and my heart broke and my will broke, my praise might not have passed the litmus test for a church chorus, but it was my broken hallelujah.

Thankfully, those days are slipping farther and farther behind me. Their shadows finally don’t stretch long enough to darken today. But then, I break in other places. For sure, I know that I am not independent.

Ragged relationships have cut and scarred me. My husband’s own brokenness and sharp edges have wounded me, much as I have wounded him sometimes. Love is like that, you share your wounds and bleed on each other – and bear their burdens and salve their scars. But mostly, I’m healing from those wounds. He and I are closer than we’ve been before. A bone heals stronger where it was broken, that’s us: stronger now.

So, when the put the question: Broken Hallelujah, I thought – not now. Oh but it only takes a moment for a storm to strike and wreak havoc on a well-ordered heart. The lightening strikes fast and touches flame to old hurts. Dark clouds press down, nearly suffocating the tender ground. In one afternoon, my heart succumbed to storm surge and I found myself dissolving on the floor again, in tears.

We’re moving. My husband is an Army officer, so after 10 years of this, you’d think I’d be used to it. I thought I was. I thought I had puttied the cracks from past moves. All the severed relationships, the quick goodbyes. All the special places, kissed so-long and overnight, they’ll never be seen again.

I didn’t really want to bring God in on this hurt. This was something normal, just a circumstance, a career path. Moving with the military is simply my life, not a problem to be solved or anything that requires a solution. It shouldn’t break me, in fact, it’s a good sign that my husband is progressing in his job. We only crack under bad things, right?

Last night, a very broken me sprawled face first on the floor beside my bed. And a broken hallelujah, a broken declaration, an agonized announcement of my need for my very Good God, came out in a whisper.

God, it hurts to start the goodbyes. Weeks and months out, I start minimizing my impact on my community. I convince myself that I’m not needed here in this city, this church, this small group of friends will all go on without me. And soon, I’ll be in a new place with no one, so I might as well begin adjusting now to loneliness.

And I fear the moments I am alone, that they mean I’m getting too comfortable by myself and will lose connection with… And God I know you’re enough, but you didn’t intend man to be alone. But…

And there my hallelujah stops. It breaks off without closure or final seem. Instead, the hallelujah still leaks from my brokenness onto the floor. And I’m still murmuring this broken hallelujah.

‘Cause all that I can sing is a broken Hallelujah

And my only offering is shattered praise

Still a song of adoration will rise up from these ruins

And I will worship You and give you thanks

Even when my only praise is a broken Hallelujah

A Me-So-Happy-List

I learn so much every time I read She Loves Magazine. Yesterday, the author recalled All Saints’ Day and challenged me to consider the women who were the saints in my own life. Particularly, those who have passed and left a lingering legacy for the cause of Christ permanently inked on my life. Then, today, Tina asked us to write a “Me So Happy List.” A list to be applied as a direct antiseptic to festering wounds of loneliness, brutal days, sadness, sore knees, ceiling-bound prayers, loveless relationships, finding out you’re doing life all wrong.

Ever felt that way?

I think I can tie these two challenges together. Perhaps I’ll begin my happiness list with warm recollections of those who have loved me into the shape I am now.

Vanessa: I met her in church months after I got married and moved to North Carolina. That same season, my new husband deployed to Iraq for a year. At first sight, Vanessa was as vivacious, peppy and assertive as anyone I’ve ever known. Only in bits and pieces did I discover that she had just tipped over the brink of remission from melanoma. Months before I met her, she had nearly died from chemo. By the time I came along, she was trying alternative treatments successfully, her hair had grown back and she was charging full steam ahead.

I had never attempted door-to-door evangelism before, and I doubt I’ll summon the courage to do it again. But I did it with Vanessa. It seemed as if living in a thin place incensed her to talk about Jesus.

But then I watched her die.

Cancer is unpredictable. It came back so viscously that it seemed from one day to the next it sank into her bones, bound her to a bed and stole her voice. I watched her 10 year old son as she traveled far and wide searching for a miracle. None came.

But Vanessa never panicked. Her bulldog way of staring down each new day, daring the sun not to rise, buoyed the hearts of those around her until she was gone. But even the shattering pain, a wholeness filled each room of her house. That’s the way she remains to me – whole, full, complete, content, satisfied, too much, too big to contain. How does one manage that in diminishing death?

I am thankful for her.

I am thankful for a dog named, Brave. His furry body wedged between my knees at 2 a.m.  – challenging to me to sleep another wink.

That my husband loves, loves, loves his job and thrives in all its challenges.

My family loves me, and I can miss them when we’re miles apart. That longing fuels the warmth of reunion.

That God is not silent.

That I can write and that yesterday’s journal informs my heart more now than it did then.

For the difference between acquaintances and life-long friends.

For funny people who don’t know they’re funny, dressed in a blue Santa hat sitting at the table next to me.