Tag: comfort (page 2 of 2)

A God of Cat and Mouse Games?

This week I was able to return to a place that is holy for me.  A place where God met me in a powerful way.  It’s a dock by a lake where our friends live in Wisconsin.

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The dock is a perfect place to spend some time reading in the early morning.  One of the things I love to do as I read my Bible is to date different promises or commands that have been meaningful to me, connecting with specific circumstances in my life. It’s such an encouragement when I see how personal and alive God’s word is to me – even if it’s convicting.

Many verses are dated with the name of one of our daughters as I have prayed the verses for them. Next to Psalm 16:8 is 10/9/09 and “Katy -job”.

Other verses (like Is. 42:13 and Is. 43:18,19) have dates with notes about prayers for guidance.

Psalm 9:9 says, “The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.” Next to it is written “Haiti”.

One of the most meaningful and important notations in my Bible is next to Matthew 7: 9-11. I wrote, “Bere’s dock, August 15, 2004.”

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Three Things to Listen For

John and I “mentor” several young men and women, but I’m not crazy about that word.  Basically we’re all just travelers on a road trip trying to help each other find the exits, and the Culvers, scrape up enough money for tolls, and not crash.

All of us stumble and run and trudge along with each other.  Parent and child, friends of different generations, boss and staff, coaches, teachers, trainers…

Healthy or wounded or recovering, energized at times and weary at others, seeking sometimes, finding at others.  Discouraged or joy-filled we need each other.  

In all relationships I want to be present to God and to the other at the same time.  Kind of like when I’m in the Great Room at church after worship, talking to someone I can always discern John’s voice if he’s also in the room.  It’s distinctive and I know it.  How I long for that same ear attuned God’s voice while I’m in conversation with others!

Awhile ago I heard someone suggest that as we are present to God with others, there is often one of three things He may want us to listen for that may be needed.

1 Thessalonians 2:11,12 says “For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting, and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.”

Whether it’s a child or friend or co-worker, does this person need encouragement and affirmation?  A picture of what’s possible?  Celebration of what you’ve seen in them?  Naming their gifts?

Or do they need an empathic listening ear?  Someone to sit by their side and remind them they’re not alone?

Lastly, might they need a kick in the butt?  Maybe that takes the form of correction or facing hard truth, or setting the bar higher?

This being present to God and others doesn’t come naturally for me.  It takes practice and  paying attention.  And sometimes I just ask the person, “What do need most today?”

As I reflect over my conversations from yesterday, I was responsive to God’s nudging with friends who needed comfort and encouragement, but with the boy I tutor, I think urging – more challenge – was called for, and I missed it in the moment.

What about you?

Christmas Funeral

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                            I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, planning to post it today.                                             And then the Connecticut shooting happened.                                                                     And we’re reeling, wailing, mourning, grasping for answers and comfort.  No words are adequate.  So I want to be clear that this post is not in response to recent events, but nevertheless, I pray may be some small encouragement.

Here’s the thing.  I hate funerals.  I avoid them like a cat avoids water.  I really don’t like them.

I know they’re important and showing up to grieve with the family is good, but still…I’m just being honest.

Friday I had to go to a funeral.  The son of some friends of ours was killed riding his bicycle.  We love them and our kids grew up together.  It was just a freak accident, as they say.

Corey was a troubled young man who struggled with mental illness all his life, and so, in a sense, his death was a relief from his torment, an escape to peace with Jesus who he had claimed as his Savior.

Still…Both John and I had a hard time getting through the service.

As the words of Mark Shultz’s song “He’s My Son” bounced off the windows of our beautiful sanctuary decorated with greens and twinkle lights for Advent, we thought of our own girls, our own prayers, our attempts to protect them, our parenting mistakes…

I’m down on my knees again, tonight.  I’m hoping this prayer will turn out right…

Can you hear me?  Can you see him?  Please don’t leave him.  He’s my son.

How do you make sense of it all?  How do you survive the death of one of your babies?

I just don’t know.

But here was the biggest thing about Friday and that funeral...  In the midst of that tremendous, palpable pain at church, there was also an overwhelming sense of ….Emmanuel.

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A Near Death Experience

There’s a prerequisite for heaven.  It’s called death.

You remember that line from the movie, Princess Bride?  “There’s dead and then there’s mostly dead.”

The other day I realized I was only mostly dead.  Or even less than that.  Maybe just a smidge dead.

But I wanted to be SEEN as totally dead.  Dead to self.  To selfishness.  To self-centeredness.

Several times in the course of two days I gave time and effort and gave up comfort to go out of my way and serve someone.

And you know what?  It didn’t seem to matter at all.  No one said “thanks”, much less threw a parade.

The kid I tutor was rude and uncooperative.  The meal I made for someone didn’t fit their dietary restrictions.  And, and, and…

And my bratty 13-year-old self, wanted a high five or at least a little “Woohoo!” from Jesus.  And by that I mean from everyone around me.

The main person I really wanted to serve was myself.

I wanted the image of serving others, and the perk of being noticed and admired.

I wanted it to look like I had a shiny outside but my inside was pretty gross…maggoty in fact.

Have you ever recognized this in yourself?  Maybe once?

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When You Can’t Say the Right Thing

It’s been a season of pain for people all around me.

Death, and cancer, and betrayal.

My reactions may be similar to yours:

  • I cannot imagine how I would deal with such tragedies if I were in their place.
  • I am heartbroken.  Overwhelmed with grief for them.
  • I don’t want to “go there”.  I hide in my busyness.  I don’t want to dive into the wreckage of my friends’ pain because I can’t fix it.
  • I feel desperately awkward because I don’t know what to say that could possibly help.
When something bad happens, people (and by people I mean me) often say the “wrong” thing.  We want to comfort, but our heads are filled with words we’ve been told we shouldn’t say, like “I know how you feel.”  
So our default mode is to say… nothing.
Last year I heard Cory Booker speak.  He’s the mayor of Newark and faces issues of overwhelming violence, poverty, and drugs daily.  He cares deeply and is striving for ways to bring health and healing to his city.

He shared that one day he walked home to his apartment in a low-income area of the city, extremely discouraged.  He was faced with complex problems and he didn’t know what to do. Continue reading

Where are you going today?

Tomorrow John and I are leaving to go to Sri Lanka, off the coast of India (yes, I had to check).  He for a World Vision Board meeting.  Me, to support him in his Board-dom and see more of God’s world and work.

The amount of travel I get to do is a privilege I don’t take lightly.  I’m blessed, but I told the girls it doesn’t bode well for me that one of the first things I read about Sri Lanka is that they have 84 different kinds of snakes, but not to worry because not that many are poisonous.

I hate snakes.  I mean really.  Me and Indiana Jones.

So, Sri Lanka has that against it.  And it’s like a million hours on three flights to get there which I could live without.

But, I’ve been thinking.  Discomfort and snakes aside, in many ways it’s easier for me to go across the world and build relational bridges to folks in Sri Lanka, than it is for me to go across the street and build a bridge to my neighbors who smoke and have loud parties and yell at their kids.

It may be easier to fly across continents than for me to make the time to fight traffic and go across the city to a homeless shelter, or to tutor.

Sometimes it’s easier to jet across time-zones than to walk across the Great Room at church and include someone who is hard to love.  Or cross the coffee shop to listen to enter into someone’s pain, or reach out to a stranger.

I think of what it was like for Jesus, leaving the pure delight of heaven and coming across time and space to enter into the everyday brokenness, muck and mess of this world He loves.

And then He went across cultural and economic and class lines to reach the Samaritan, the tax-collector, the confused rich, and the broken-hearted father.

I think the reason it’s easier for us to go across the world than across the street is because across the street is just so everyday.  It’s always right there.  It’s the ever-present opportunity we’ll get to “someday”.

Going across my city, my neighborhood, my church, my home, my coffee shop.  It’s not like it’s a big deal.  Which is why, perhaps it is a big deal to Jesus.

A quote by Gregory Boyle has captured me this week: Jesus “goes where love has not yet arrived.”

So on this last day before Sri Lanka, my goal is to be aware go across wherever I can go across in my everyday world, prayerfully going where maybe love has not yet arrived.

Where is it hard for you to go across?

Sheep and the most Important Word

My family says I’m sheep-obsessed.

I’ve always been a sheep girl.  I love the image of God as our shepherd in the Bible – patiently, gently taking care of us clumsy, clueless, grace-dependent, but usually well-meaning lumpy messes.

My family gives me a hard time because I’ve been known to chase sheep on several continents trying to get a good picture of, say “British sheep” as opposed to “Guatemalan sheep”.  Last week outside Bethlehem I got this picture of what I called “Christmas sheep”.

Although the land is all built up with Israeli settlements, as I looked over the hills surrounding Bethlehem, it was easy to picture THE real shepherds two thousand years ago on Christmas eve in the quiet night, looking up at the same stars that blanket us today.

It made me think of a sermon I heard years ago on the Twenty-third Psalm.  It really stuck with me, which is the mark of a good sermon, isn’t it?

Actually it was only on the first 5 words of the Psalm.  The speaker, Max Lucado challenged listeners to choose which one of these words was their favorite…which was most important to them.

The (not “Some”, not “A”, not “one of many” )

Lord (The word used here is a verb – ACTIVE!  The same word for Lord used with Moses – I AM)

is (present tense, not just “was” or “will be”)

my (personal!! not just “David’s” or “Paul’s” or “Billy Graham’s”)

shepherd (present, caring, and responsible for sheep 24/7.  Sheep are totally dependent)

So, this morning, jet-lagged and just home from a long, intense trip, I’m thankful for a Shepherd-God who gently carries me.

What’s the most important word for you?

Which word would you choose as your favorite today?

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