Mercy trumps judgement every time…a timeless message from my Dad.

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We have a label for people who predict terrible times ahead…we call them “doomsayers”. This conjures up different ideas for each of us. I remember the first time my parents took me to the French Quarter in New Orleans. I was fourteen years old. I was so excited to see Jackson Square and all the sights but I was unprepared for the paradoxes there. It was the first time I had seen a person passed out cold in a gutter holding a bottle of some kind of alcohol and then only a few feet away stood a man preaching “repent, for the day of the Lord is near!” I held tight to my Daddy’s hand and said what do we do? He said “just keep walking.”
Later that day Daddy and I had a conversation and the wisdom of it has stayed with me…You see he said, “while society caricatures the two different types of people we saw today and often makes fun of them the important message is missed.

A true prophet may pronounce the prediction of doom and judgement but God always offers a way “out of death, judgment and doom. God, through His Son offers the SOLUTION…He offers Hope. Hope for the man in the gutter, hope for the preacher with the hard message.

The Day of the Lord is coming. God is very clear about that in His Word but He is also patient with us and extends us the gift of Life through Christ with a Grace and a Mercy that trumps judgement every time for those who believe in and call upon the name of Jesus. Always remember your Hope is in Jesus.”
The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, And makes me walk on my high places. Habakkuk 19:3

I can feel my self becoming removed from the conversation…

pexels-photo-326055.jpegI can feel my self becoming removed from the conversation, from the room, from this place. As though I have been here many times before yet am now born into “such a time as this.” It is easier to let my self be free when I realize this story is not about me. I do not have to carry the answer, the load, the laughter, the grief, the joy…I get to experience it but I am not the atonement… but I am worth a telling.
I am the spring day when the daffodils and hyacinth bloom after Winter’s death and fill the world with the heady scent of new life. I am the dark rich dirt that lies thick undercover in the deep forest with moss and fungus growing out of it. I am the bright orange fall leaf that gets to trip and twirl down the city street in front of two lovers taking a walk. They try to run and catch me but they cannot. I am not their love affair.
I am the stark bare trees of Winter’s blast. I dance among the stars and sit upon the moon whenever I feel like it.
It is really not a mystery yet remains mysterious. It is truly not difficult to understand. I do not have answers regarding quantum physics nor the dimensions that I live in, for they are many and some are not of this world. I only know that my heart provides my body and brain with new oxygenated fresh red blood more than one hundred thousand times a day! Imagine such a miracle just for a moment or two.
So then you must tell your story. It may or may not help someone. It most likely will but either way you are worth a telling.
I leave you with this final thought from a writer Hunter Thompson…
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

Marching Season

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For nearly a century she has participated in marching season. Today she will not be there to celebrate the protestant fight in Northern Ireland for religious freedom. She will at last be truly free from all of man’s inhumanity to man. She has seen many a protestant kill a catholic and vice versa.

It has never made any sense to her… She watches her skin float up into the ray of sunlight in the window, like dust particles. She knows her body is disappearing. She hears soft footfalls and whispered conversation. These are the by-product of leaving an old world and arriving into the only new one.

As a little girl she would sit in the sunlight in her bedroom and try to catch floating dust particles. Now she realizes perhaps this was a lesson in leaving. It is very easy. She would like to tell her loved ones so but they have not learned the floating lesson.

I am every blue on the color wheel…

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I am the girl in the dream, the girl in the hour-glass.
I am every blue on the color wheel.
I rise on a great floating bubble that a child just blew out of a plastic jar of soap.
The bubble is robin egg blue and I am continually moving toward you.
I am the girl in the dream, the girl clasping turquoise ribbons attached to the moon. My skin looks silver blue like the moon. My heart is an open door and the door is deep blue like a navy school uniform blazer. I turn the glacier blue door knob and I am permanently moving toward you. I am the girl in the dream, the girl who is every blue on the color wheel. I am soaring up toward the baby powder blue stars, the blue-gray fog is lifted and my blue gray eyes finally see you and my Faith has been made sight.

I just feel a little lost to be honest…I’m okay with that…

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So my youngest daughter (I have two daughters) had her first baby on March 6th…can I just tell you to say it is surreal is an understatement.  This young woman, Allison, is my baby…life has come full circle once again. I know it happens every day and this cycle makes the world go around but honestly it overwhelms me. I sit and watch her hold her baby boy, Collin, and I think in my head, “did you know I held you just that way? Did you know I remember that feeling of what do I do now? I can see you with your thumb in your mouth. I can remember the color of your eyes, your distress cry, and most of all your smile.

I can tell you it is a full-heart yet empty nest feeling when your children have their own families. It is harder than the empty nest of college. This empty nest is for the rest of your life. I know it is a good thing and all is as it should be. They have good men who love them, children who are masterpieces, and they have many family and friends who  love them.

 I just feel a little lost to be honest.

It is not self pity. It has a mourning/grief component. The reality is distorted sometimes because obviously they are still my daughters and always will be. Their children will always be my grandchildren, yet each are a family unit in and of themselves and I am not part of that intimacy. I am in the next best intimate position however and for that I am eternally grateful. So why the sadness at times? I don’t think there is any other answer but that it is part of life. My life ‘s scope is narrowing and my daughter’s and their families are racing off to  catch up with their dreams! My life is slower and the sphere is smaller now. I have more time to remember, think, and ponder life than I did twenty years ago. Those years have flown by as everyone who has ever lived will tell you.

As a true empty nester I find I must stay in the joy when I am able to have my sweet family around me. I cherish each time a grandchild is with me, even if it is for just a couple of hours or a vacation together. I love seeing my daughter’s text on my phone or getting a call to come over or go to lunch.

When it is  just my husband and I there is a quietness that honestly makes us sad at times. At other times the kids have worn us out and we are glad for a  rest but always looking forward to the next time.

Some may respond to me by saying, “get a life!” My response to that is that I have a life but it is not the same. One thing that younger people don’t know yet is that core friendships had in your twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties can get lost or changed for a myriad of reasons and building new relationships as you age becomes much more difficult. It is not as if we now go to bars and parties to meet new people. Oh yes we can join clubs and churches and hope to find new friends but the cultural climate makes this difficult. We have tried this and continue to try.

It is different and now that I am in my sixties I am searching for what my life will be. So I guess my point is we never stop developing and growing our life. It takes work to persevere and serve and fulfill but I think it is perfectly okay for me to say it feels hard some days and I am okay with that.

This stage in my life also confirms to me even more that there is something innate in us that knows there is something more…there is a unity the can’t be broken but there is a unity that does become more distant, as it must.

I have no complaints. I am grateful to God for all of his gifts and I will journey on to see what lies ahead. Here is to all of you true empty nesters that know what I am attempting to say…journey on! Peace.

Train Ride

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Butterscotch Sunday melted away

We rode on the train down by the bay

We built little castles with dirty brown sand

We bought Colombian

heard the Stephen Stills band.

 

You said I was the beauty of the earth

Flowers in my hair, cigarettes in my purse.

I thought that train ride would never end

until I saw you on the bridge with my best friend.

 

I pack my bags on a Butterscotch Sunday

put on my pink dress and kneel down to pray.

All the dirty brown sandcastles crumble down

I’m gonna board the next train out of town.

 

“to claim that you are the guarantor of eternal life is quite a claim yet it is the heart beat and core of the Gospel.” (Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner)

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The claims of Jesus are startling to say the least. The focus of his teaching is about relationship and relationship at its core is, I believe, the stumbling block for humanity.

To claim that you are in the Triune relationship with God and his Spirit is all about the ultimate community and in a world that exalts “individualism” this sets Jesus and the Christian grossly apart.

One author writes in her book, Girl meets God that to claim that you are the guarantor of eternal life is quite a claim yet it is the heart beat and core of the Gospel. Being autonomous is what the “enlightenment era” is all about but in the teaching of Jesus, the body of Christ that we call The Church, isn’t language that lends itself to autonomy.

The Christian message sets itself apart from other religions by its foundation which is “Jesus came to give life.” There is no figuring out, laboring, or merit system. Eternal life is given as a gift from God himself, the three in One, which includes the acceptance of Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit being in perfect relationship, all three persons in One God. This relationship is what Love is. God is love.

So here are some common “isms” that are prevalent that make Jesus’ claims even more cutting edge. Relativism is the claim that “all truth is rooted in opinion.”

Pluralism is based on the basis that different views and values and practices can be true therefore no “one” view is better than any other.

Jesus’ claims are NOT open to pluralism or relativism because Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father but by me. He also says that there is only one way to heaven and that is to acknowledge that He is the Son of God and is a living God.

“God does not, can not affirm us in our sin nor is he indifferent to our sin. He loves us despite our sin. Jesus establishes that it is “Love”, not tolerance as the standard by which we relate to God and to all people.”  Dr. Hud McWilliams

Jesus died for our liberty. Liberty is a rigorous state but it should NOT be so. In a world where it seems people continue to be led by religiosity, politics, tradition, ritual, and vain repetition Jesus’ claims Liberty is what He came and died and rose again for! 

Now the LORD is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17.

 

 

 

 

catching sparks

 

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I put my mind on pause till the midnight moonrise

I get hysterically reverent when the church bells chime

Painted soft flames of love flick around my heart

the shadow of a poet, she’s only catching sparks.

I want to sleep deeply in a minor key

need that old emerald seas washing over me.

Sprinkles of “should haves” drop into the sand

As seeker, a woman. Just had to love that man.

Catching sparks, clear as star fire

Catching sparks of loving-kindness

Catching sparks like yellow fireflies

Catching sparks till I close my eyes.

Guest post from Dr. Hud McWilliams: The Role of Grief

pexels-photo-276349.jpegI am sharing today a blog post from my friend, counselor, and mentor Dr. Hud McWilliams. Please go to his link for more wisdom…I love this man’s heart for people. You will too.

I frequently muse about the role that grief plays in our lives.  Losses are inevitable and even necessary.  If we learn how to grieve and mourn them well, we will come to experience a kind of spiritual freedom only available through letting go.

I’m troubled when I see how often we as believers walk away from the giant resource grief provides us in our journeys to become more mature and more like Christ.  Instead, we avoid grief by attempting to get the world to fit into our mold, or attempting to escape the normal movement of life, or seeking peace and safety at the expense of reality. It is often only through loss, suffering and grief that we have access to the central and massive comfort and freedom that Jesus died to provide us, in the here and now.

A few months ago, Nancy took our grandsons to Body World, a traveling science display in Denver.  Here in the midst of an exhibit displaying the phenomenal physical marvels of being human, she found that the context screamed of hopelessness–no purpose, no future.  Along with the fascinating display of the human body came a number of banners with quotes that seemed to rob the viewer of reasons to live, such as, “When you die, you just lose consciousness.”  In a culture that denies grief and death, it is difficult to hold a biblical view of reality that finds hope in the midst of a broken world and painful circumstances.  Like the display, our culture attempts to soften painful realities with slogans that tout “hope” rooted in nothing. Perhaps, as the exhibit implies, if we simply define man as a biological entity, we can remove the inevitable sting of loss. So the slogan, “when you die you die” is intended to comfort us in an attempt to respond to the reality one only sees.  And it’s designed to eliminate our desperate need for hope.

The Body World display teaches us that without a future vision we must either live in despair or some form of fantasy. The biblical view is quite different.  In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul tells believers, “…we are not to grieve as the world grieves, as those who have no HOPE.” And in 1 Peter 3:15, Peter says, as believers we are to be ready to give an answer to those who ask, for the HOPE that is in us.  Quite frequently we ignore the scriptures instructing believers to “not lose HOPE!”  Real hope comes when we place our trust in “true truth.”  Why do we so often fail to walk in this freedom, which is given to us who believe? Maybe part of the reason is because we fail to make the necessary adjustments in our thinking that will line us up with the truth we claim.

The truth Christ has given us says that although much of what we experience in this upside down world is not part of the original design, God has given us grief as a major resource to deal with the regular rhythms of transition and loss.  Transition, loss, and the grief of dealing with these allow us to offload distortions of reality. We are essentially double minded, and instead of believing the truth, we believe the distortions the world markets to us: a life that makes sense, and personal peace and affluence.  One good thing about the globalization of our world is that we are less likely to live in isolation from the painful reality of this messed up world. Buried in the middle of this is a view of life that is grounded in facing life as it comes and being able to grapple with the “bad news”.

I’d like to suggest that we define grief like this: to accurately adjust our views of reality by aligning them with the “truth” of God’s creation in its fallen, messed up, mean state!  Grief in this context may be thought of as a healthy concession to the fallen-ness of the present world.  Matthew 5:4 says those who mourn will be comforted. It’s interesting to me that these two ideas are linked in this manner. Few of us seem to get this connection, that grief/mourning gives us access to comfort/freedom. How often our expectations of what life are should be like derived from our culture instead of the “Word” written and incarnate?  Our culture shapes our expectations as well as our desires.  First world individuals are caught in a consumerist environment.  In this environment a desire is never illegitimate, it is only unmet!

Let that sink in for a moment.  What helps shape our desires?  Is it the ‘truth’ we believe from Scripture, or are we formed by the strength of the environment in which we are placed? If this second view is allowed to shape our perceptions, then the basis for our HOPE is skewed!

For consumers, fulfillment of desire is the highest good and the final arbiter in making decisions.  In contrast, Scripture champions freedom, contentment and self-control based in values, not endless pursuit of personal desire. God is not a commodity that exists to make us feel better!

Maybe a thorough sensitizing and awareness of our expectations and their origins is the core work of grief.  The first thing we must do in order to move through the grieving process in a life-giving way is to face the truth about our skewed/distorted beliefs of how life should work.  Most of us see the application in “large” issues, like the death of a loved one or loss of the ability to work or a divorce. It’s the smaller deceptions that keep us from experiencing the freedom we miss.  Let’s examine some of these.

How often are our disappointments in our children or a disagreement with our mate mishandled? Instead of seeing the “matter of fact” of life’s movements, we eschew such for the immediate feeling of control and the satisfaction it seems to provide. Even something as trite as a haircut and color that doesn’t turn out as you expected can rob us of the capacity to celebrate the life that we have in fact been given. Often our view squeezes out the joy that is available because we are restricted by a pinched perspective that prohibits us from seeing the freedom God has for us.  Our culture teaches us to win, not to grieve.  We want to be right, to fight and to be strong. Grieving the loss of some particular disappointment means that we are called to “let go” and move away from a victim posture. Culture teaches the opposite by telling us to find someone or something to blame.

Any “false” view of reality, no matter how small, can and will set us up for useless pain and disappointment.  When we put our hope in a world free of loss and only driven by acquisition, we are committing a form of idolatry.

But there’s another kind of grief. The kind laid out in the Gospels.  I call it hopeful grief or good grief.  This kind of grief is based on a view of reality that allows us to adjust to what is rather than what we wish was.

See more of Hud’s wisdom at hudmcwilliams.com