Tag: character of God (page 1 of 2)

In the Bunker with Jesus

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about parenting and our view of God. Later I was at a park with my friend, Emily Conrad, and her children. I’ve had the privilege of walking alongside Emily through some really dark times.

She is a woman of tremendous faith and authenticity who is “working out her salvation”, looking for the real Jesus. When I asked her to share where she had seen Jesus recently, she told this story which I asked her to write down for you. It is a joy to welcome Emily to the blog today!

In my basement, there is a storage closet that we have lovingly started calling The Bunker.

It houses my camping gear & tent, Christmas wrapping paper, numerous garage sale items and far too many books from grad school.

About a month ago, my husband and I decided that our children (or maybe ourselves) needed a safe place to get out all of our angst, our anger, our emotions that have a tendency to scare the other members of the family in the midst of daily life with five people.

We made up a rule that the Bunker was the place to go when you feel out of control, and that Mom or Dad would stay in the Bunker with you while you yelled or screamed or cried at the top of your lungs. However, we might use our earplugs so that our eardrums didn’t shatter.  The important thing, though, was that we would stay together in the messiness. Specifically, we thought our middle daughter might benefit from a safe place to “just get it all out”- and side note, our therapist gave us the green light for this idea. ☺

Our middle daughter is a rock star 6 yr old, a little lady who has faced more uphill battles in the first few years of her life than most people face in their entire lifetime- abandonment, attachment issues, relocation, being the lone black kiddo in a white family, change of name-all before she was 2 years old. And with all of that comes a lot of heartache and emotions that she can’t process in her body so it often comes out in brutal, ugly screaming- like a torrent of anger and loss and pain. I want to say that I am able to handle her strong emotions like a champ. I’ve been her Mom for four years already – I should be a pro. However, that’s not quite true. Her outbursts make me want to run away most days, if I’m really honest.

So recently we had a moment, my daughter and I, when I was getting heated up at just the same rate that she was getting heated up. Things were not going to end well. An issue that started out small and was rapidly blowing up.

Time to head to the Bunker. This was not super well-received, but we headed to the Bunker anyway.

At first there was a total refusal to work through things: “I’m not mad and I’m not going to do this”, which quickly turned into an epic scream fest, (by her-not me). Think banshee decibel. I calmly popped in my earplugs as she was screaming and I thought to myself, “Go ahead, girlfriend, get it all out. I am in total control here. Do what you’ve gotta do. I am calm.” Not very empathic, obviously.

As she stood there screaming, beads of sweat on her forehead, I noticed something in my spirit that went like this: “I wish I wasn’t stuck in here. This feels so messy and chaotic. Ugh. Anyone else want to trade places with me?! I don’t do mess.”

And as I stood with my daughter in the Bunker, but not truly with her, I realized that I don’t like bunker situations.  In fact, I usually run from them.

But I know that the past several years of my life have been just that- Bunker-y. Messy, chaotic, yuck…both internally and externally as we have navigated life with our daughter. It has been lonely and exhausting and has felt like the pit of despair- just like it felt in the Bunker that day.

After several minutes, there was a flicker of hope that went off in my heart as I started crying, rather sobbing, over my life and my mistakes and my own heartache and my own need to feel heard and loved in the midst of messiness and brokenness – how I have needed someone to be with me in the thick of it. In the Bunker, I felt Jesus say, “I am with you in all of your Bunker, in your anger, in your despair, and it’s not too much for Me. I can take this on for you.”

I turned to my daughter and with what can only be called the mercy and compassion of Jesus, I saw her tears and fear and pain and I thought, “I can take this on for you- I can stay with you in the Bunker whatever that entails. I can take on your messiness and chaos because that’s what love does.” As I knelt down to my daughter and hugged her and cried with her, there was such a profound sense of connection and empathy and I-am-with-you-in-this, all of this.

I’m not sure if you have a place or a sacred moment or even someone who sits in the Bunker with you, but I hope these things for you.

Looking for Dad

Friday I’m sitting in the back of Starbucks with my Bible and study books laid out before me when a dad in a dark business suit walks in with his teenage son before work and school.

Dad just has coffee.

Son sits down with most everything edible on the menu – the meal of a growing guy who’s already taller than his father. Instead of coffee, he sips from a juice box – the one hint that there is still a little boy hiding inside this gangly boy/man.

Father and son are awkwardly silent. Eyes glance anywhere but at each other. It’s painful to watch.  I can almost hear their minds spinning, searching for common ground…anything to talk about in this season when a head of red hair seems to be the only thing they share.

What if I say something stupid?

What if he sees my weakness?

After a few seconds Dad gets up with his coffee and walks out into the hall, leaving son behind without saying anything. Is he looking for a bathroom? Making a call? Can he just not stand the deafening silence?

Teenage Opie sits alone, eating his breakfast. Curiously, I notice that he doesn’t pull out a smartphone to distract or entertain himself. He just eats, looking lonely. And I wonder what’s going through his mind. What is he thinking about his dad?

Does he know God? What might this relationship be teaching him about his heavenly Father?

“I will never leave or forsake you.”

“Nothing can separate us from the love of God…”

“Come to me…”

The dad never comes back, and when finished eating, the son wanders into the hall looking for him.

What if Dad had said, “This is a hard season for both of us. I want to be a good dad, but I’m unsure of myself. I’m afraid of saying the wrong thing, but I care. I want to listen to what’s important to you. I’m for you. Nothing can make me love you less than I do right now.”

Saturday I was at the same table when a young mom comes in with her 4-year-old daughter, large cheery pink bow in her hair and a smile to match.

Although in an easier season, like Dad and son, this mom and daughter have a chasm of years and experience between them.

But Mom never once pulls out a cell phone. She looks her daughter in the eye and  asks questions and chats about everything important to a toddler.

What is that little girl learning about her heavenly Parent?

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

 

When we are present, when we lean in, when create safe places, we reflect the image of our Heavenly Father.

You are Elizabeth

Elizabeth is a woman in 1st century Israel. Strike one.

Elizabeth is old. Strike two.

Elizabeth is infertile. Strike three.

Elizabeth experiences the death of a dream to be a mom, to be valued among her family and friends.

And then when God miraculously blesses her with a child, it’s not one who we might imagine to be the straight A, class president, organize of “Meet me at the Pole” prayer day. He’s a weird loner who eats bugs, doesn’t marry, and is beheaded as a young man.

You and I are Elizabeth.

We have things about us that make us feel “less than”. We’ve experienced the death of a dream. Or two.

Here’s the thing about Elizabeth and dreams and us.

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For years, Elizabeth held her dreams with one open hand, but clung to God with the other. 

The challenge for me each day is to hold my dreams in one open hand, while clinging to God with the other.

Our faith is in the character of our God, not the conditions of our day-to-day life.

Might we pray with one open hand, telling God about our dreams and relinquishing them to Him to refine or change as He will? 

And pray with one clinging hand, reciting all about God that we trust in – His goodness, His presence, His strength, His mercy…?

A Letter to My Brother

Dear Baby David,

I keep thinking of that time a few years ago when we all were gathered at the Lake House for Memorial Day weekend.

It was the same as every year – too many kids and dogs to count. Card games, and tubing, and Dad threading gooey worms on fishing hooks, and sitting at the long harvest table on the porch in soggy swim suits for lunch.

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Memorial Day is notoriously a little early to be swimming in Wisconsin, but still, we launched the boat and plunged into the water as always. We’re a “Choose-life-no-matter-what” kind of family.

It was cool and cloudy and super windy that year, but you kept trying to convince me to go sailing with you on our little Sunfish. “Come on, Laura! It will be great! Me and you!” I can hear you as clear as if you were saying it to me today.

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Finally I relented and we took off, you at the rudder (because I don’t actually know how to sail) and me along for the ride. Aunts and Uncles, grandparents and kids and dogs watched from the shallows as the wind immediately whipped up and started speeding us across the lake.

I’d say it was approximately 10 seconds before I watched helplessly as you fell off the back and I was on my own, speeding away.

I can picture you treading water and laughing so hard, like such a brother.

Everyone on shore was yelling instructions as I got further away from land, and some scrambled to jump in the ski boat and rescue me.

David, I keep thinking of this, because I feel like you’re slipping off the back of the boat again. And I don’t want you to go. I don’t want to sail on without you. Continue reading

When You Don’t Like the Plot Line of Your Story

I snuggle into the overstuffed nest-like chair in my bedroom with knees pulled up, feet against the ottoman, Bible and books scattered around me.IMG_0516

It feels safe here.

Through my window I see there’s a tug ‘o war going on between the clouds and sun that mimics the push and pull of the thoughts in my head.

Outside the gray is winning.

Inside…

I’m reflecting on the plot line of the story God is writing with my brother, David’s life.

How many millions of times, with how many different words have I prayed for healing for my brother?

Please, please, please… Write the story THIS way Lord!

Now I’m out of words. Or when I have them, they end up feeling rote and empty of meaning or power. Like some mumbo jumbo incantation from an old tired magician. Now there are only groans and sighs left.

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It’s not my words, after all, that hold any power. It’s just You. You hold the pen.

Come Holy Spirit. Have mercy.  Pray in my place please, with all the right and mystical and holy words that I don’t have.

I breathe. I listen. And then I remind You of how well Your razzle-dazzle work with Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter played, in case You forgot. I suggest that showing off with a healing like that again wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Write another amazing blockbuster!

I fluctuate between wanting to distract myself with a happy clappy crowd of people, and craving silence, and just You, Jesus.

Like an overloaded African truck, I strain under the most recent tonnage of  words like “It’s spreading too fast to fight”.

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I share the weight of those words with both You and praying friends.

But once I’ve dumped them one last time, I end up sitting very still and breathing.

Not thinking. Not carrying. Not burdened, but just being. And breathing. Breathing in You.  Reassured that no matter what,  You are good and nothing – NOTHING – can separate us from Your love.

David is afraid of how this might affect his boys – seeing their vibrant, active dad, weak and helpless. But I tell him they are seeing a different kind of strength in him now; a strength of faith and character that far outweighs the importance of physical strength. It is a picture of Your strength that Kyle, Cris, and Cooper need so desperately. A strength that serves, and submits to a larger story.

1 Corinthians 12:9 My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

There are so many physical choices Dave can no longer make – the choice to hike, to fly-fish, to ski, to golf. But he is doing hard and holy things. Each day he makes the loving choices he can – calling each of the many doctors and nurses by name, thanking them, affirming what a great job they’re doing, even as he is in tremendous pain. This is Your strength.

My sweet brother knows You as the Lover of his soul, and looks forward to spending forever with You, but he’s worried that if he dies, his boys will blame You. There are a million reasons why he wants You to heal him, but this may be number one.

He knows that in spite of how we may read our chapter, You see all the characters, all the plot lines, the beginning and the end and you weave them together for Your purposes. You are good and perfect, but we live in a world bent by sin, and that can leave us angry and confused and wanting to shout very bad words in frustration when the story doesn’t go the way we think it should.

Throughout the past months Dave has said repeatedly that You are the Holy Ghost-Writer of his story and he’s just a supporting character. Each day, he has shown up and waited for what You want to write. He’s looked for the moments to cheer You as the Hero. He’s been honest about the plot twists and turns that seem confusing, the times the Villain seems to be winning, times when he’d like to grab the pen back from You.

You are writing an epic Love story, while we sometimes want to settle for pulp fiction.

But David continues to trust You as the Master-crafter who already wrote the end to our story when You went to the cross.  On Golgotha, we were afraid maybe You were writing a tragedy. Or maybe You weren’t the hero we thought You were. Maybe it was just a story of death. But it wasn’t. We waited and discovered three days later it is a story of Life. And it is a good story.

A Different Way of Praying

There are a heck of a lot of people in pain, in need, in despair these days. Can I get an amen?

That means a heck of a lot of prayer concerns.

If you’re like me, that can result in almost mantra-like repetition of “Please heal…Please guide…Please provide…Please bring…” The focus ends up being on the concern rather than on the character of the God we are talking to.

Kind of like when you’re in a conversation with someone and realize you’re focused more on what YOU want to say than on them.

So, I’m trying something a little different lately.  I’m picturing holding the person or the situation before the Lord and then meditating on the attributes that He brings to bear on the situation. Continue reading

Encouragement for Your Hard Race

photo-6It was a perfect day. 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. The blue above contrasted with the cornucopia of color, vibrant energy, and thousands of people around me on the National Mall in Washington D.C.  From the air I imagine it looked like a very busy colony of colorful ants.  I was at mile 11 on the Marine Corps Marathon route that our daughter Katy was running.

Although she’s run many half-marathons in different states, this was her first full and training for it had been difficult (What an understatement – like ANYONE training for a marathon has it easy!).

I had gotten her split time at 6 miles and she was on pace.  I peered over heads and around little kids as the runners kept streaming past me by the side of the road.  I kept craning my neck, looking so hard for the bright teal t-shirt I knew she was wearing.  I felt overcome with emotion –  hopes and dreams for, and pride in this precious daughter of mine.

I anxiously kept scanning the crowds of runners and praying for Katy, like the father of the prodigal son, willing him to come into view from afar off.photo-4

Is this a tiny bit of what our Heavenly Father feels as He watches us running our race of faith?  Is He picking us out of the crowd, fully aware of the miles when it’s going to be harder to keep putting one foot in front of another?   Continue reading

Fathers and God

Happy Father’s Day!  It’s raining here in Minnesota and our church picnic has been moved inside for later.  As I sat down and started writing this morning, considering people reading this in different places, I wondered what you might be thinking and feeling.

Some people have a really hard time thinking of God as their heavenly “Father”, because their experience of a father has been less than heavenly.  The fathers in their lives have been absent or abusive, or untrustworthy, or controlling.  So to call God “father” is not helpful.  I get that.  You may be more comfortable with an image of God as a mother, or a shepherd or a place of refuge. Great, go for it.

I understand too, that on Father’s Day there may be tangled hot mess of regret, anger, and confusion.  About Dads and God and longing to feel loved in ways you haven’t experienced, and trying to forgive hurts you don’t deserve.

There are many dad’s who don’t live into the name well.  Just like there are Christians who are hypocritical and mean-spirited and don’t live into the name well.

But not all dads disappoint all the time.  I’ve been privileged to know many extraordinary dads throughout my family.  My own dad, my grandfather, my brothers, and my husband… None of them perfect, but all of them remarkable men who each have modeled different godly characteristics that have enriched my understanding of God. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned About God at Halloween

This is a re-post from two years ago.  I hope it’s an encouraging reminder this Halloween.


I think that Halloween is my husband’s favorite day of the year.  Odd, I know for a pastor.  The pc answer should be Easter,right?  But honestly, I think he likes Halloween best because there’s not much that brings him as much joy as handing out candy and oohing and ahhing over every single kid’s costume.  He looks forward all year to parking his chair by the front door and waiting for kids to come.  Even though he’s terrible at figuring out what the costumes are, he greets each kid as if they were THE most amazing, creative, delightful goblin of the night.

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On Being Found

We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary today which brought to mind this post from last year.  For those of you newer to this blog, my hope is that it is encouraging to you today.

This is a story about me.  But it’s also about you.  Whether you’re married or single, read on.

Today is our 29th wedding anniversary.  And 28 years ago today was a bad day.

Our one year anniversary.

We were with family and friends at a cabin, high on a pine-filled shore overlooking a pristine lake in northern Wisconsin.

Cannon balls into the icy cold crystal blue.  Double tubing wars bumping  over the waves and plumpy only-in-the-summertime-at-the-cabin clouds overhead.  It seemed like a good day.

And it was.

Until husband John took his wedding ring off to ski and put it on the pier, asking our friend to watch it.

You know what’s coming next, don’t you?  (And by the way, WHO takes their wedding ring off to ski???)

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