No Ordinary Love

Matthew 27:45-46, 51-53 From noon onward, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And about three o’clock Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I began the week wading in thoughts of the selfless love of Christ on the cross. The time between the famous “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me” and his last mortal breaths was where I dropped anchor. I pondered the suspension. It is a picture of unprecedented darkness. A place where God seemingly abandons his son by placing humanity’s plight on his back to burrow. The darkest of dark. Abject abandonment and withdrawal of God from earth.  As I sipped my morning coffee, I let it sink in. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and[c] went into the holy city and appeared to many people. A probing question circled up from my warm cup: “Why did Christ (who was above reproach) at the stygian hour continue forward in what must have been a most unusual experience for the Trinity— something completely unnatural— an unbearable separation?” As the only place in scripture where Christ’s words imply triune separation, I imagine it was a new experience for the Godhead. And I presume no person since has experienced that kind of complete withdrawal of God on earth. Hebrews 13:5b And God has said, “Never will I leave...

Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Teaching Our Kids Not to Mask Their Pain

I answered the phone and on the other end was a dear friend sobbing. She was going through a debilitating depression and was making the decision whether to get on medication or not. She has teenagers like myself and I asked her if the kids knew. I could barely hear her whisper on the other end of the line: “No, and I don’t want them to know.” Oh, I knew the feeling all too well. I had just experienced the same thing and had to sit my kids down and explain I had depression and was taking medication. But I too had hidden it from them for quite a while out of shame. We chatted for a while and in the following days we both wrestled with these questions back and forth to each other: “How will we teach our kids the path to wellness if we don’t show them? “How do we explain to them that it’s okay to sometimes not be okay? “What if they someday go through depression like us. Are we teaching them to hide? To run? To be ashamed?” I was taught from an early age how to cope with my pain. My father was a severe alcoholic/addict and I learned early on how to numb it by stuffing it down with a substance or food, or to run from it altogether. My dad ended up getting sober when I was eighteen and was clean for twenty-two years before he passed away two years ago. Through watching him in active recovery all those years and watching him come out of hiding, God began leading me...

Our trials Are NOT Our End

“It was good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” Psalm 119:71. It was good for me. Affliction is good for me? Trials are good for me? Tests and temptations are good for me? Why? That I might learn. That I might grow. That I might serve. The Scottish minister, James Stewart, profoundly stated, “In love’s service, only the wounded soldiers can serve.” The wounded soldier has felt pain, he has been hurt, suffered, maybe even had to crawl out of a hole to get back on his feet. He has had to dodge enemy fire; he had to keep getting back up, time and time again. But he does. Psalm 147:3. “He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” It doesn’t matter what caused the broken heart or how the injury got there, God is ready to heal us of our wounds so we can move on and help someone else. Psalm 51:17. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” He sees our broken heart and spirit and that is just what He needs to work with and work through! “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39. Our trials are not our end. The scripture doesn’t mean we will not experience difficulty or even suffer in this life. We will! He did! But He promised...

Mortally Wounded Hearts

Recently, while running, I came upon an older gentleman with hat on that said “Army Vet.” I was immediately prompted to thank him for his service because I’ve lived through sending a brother off to war. I’ve wrestled with not knowing if he would return alive. I’ve heard his stories. The sacrifice is real. Immediately, he told me his name was Joe and explained he was an Army medic. It was a pretty surface conversation initially. Joe went on to tell me how he was shot while saving a fellow soldier on the battlefield. Right then, Holy Spirit prompted me, “ask Him about Jesus.” I don’t like that I’m always hesitant in sharing Jesus. I love Jesus and I want to share His life-giving power, but I find myself doubting my words so much that oftentimes I shy away from it. But, hesitantly I asked, “did you come to know Jesus during this time?” Naively, I thought I would share Jesus with Joe, but the truth is he already radiated Jesus from head to toe. For three miles we walked together and he shared Jesus story after Jesus story of God’s faithfulness in his life. Being shot at 18 years old, 13 major surgeries, twice having open heart surgery, battling cancer, having three girls(two adopted), losing his wife unexpectedly to cancer … the stories went on and on and on. Yet, of all the stories he told, one stuck with me. “One day,  I went out to save a soldier and I was also shot. Right here.” Lifting his shirt, Joe revealed a scar on the right side of...

Changing Your Perspective

This morning I took a walk on the beach. The sun was bright and warm on my skin which was a much needed contrast from the brisk wind that almost took my breath.  The sand was powdery white and felt like heaven under my feet. The water from the sea was crisp but it woke my insides up as it made contact with my skin. The ocean is where I feel the most alive. The most connected. It is my place. My soul is refreshed at the ocean. I am renewed. The last several months have been hard for so many people. The feelers of the world are struggling (we are feeling all the feels right now.) Our country is more divided than ever.  Instead of being used to connect people, social media has become a platform for debate and argument, which has led to disconnection. People are drawing lines in the sand… “What side are you on?” I have been occupying this strange space as of late. It’s a lonely space. I do believe a lot of people are in this same space but we have been quiet (for the most part). I have been sitting back watching the division worsen. People on both sides of the political lines aligning themselves with fear, anger, and hatred. Because of the fear, anger, and hatred people have become very close minded and unable to see things from another perspective let alone engage in healthy conversation. This morning as I was walking down the beach and around the bend at the end of the island, I walked up onto a large...

Self Imposed Fog

I read a devotional the other day on trusting God through the fog, the writer recounting a difficult drive down a foggy mountain road and trusting God to take her safely home. I have not had that experience of driving down a foggy mountain road. And yet, recently…I created my own fog on a bright sunny day. Nothing had changed. A blinding fog did not roll in and obscure my view. I just took my eyes off what God can do and let circumstances overwhelm me with doubt and fear. I was not a friend to myself. I was a saboteur of my own journey. For a while I let a thick fog swirl around me and swallow up my hope and faith and pull me into a dark place where discouragement filled my heart. We all have those days when praying, waiting, and working toward something are met with discouragement. We often find we derail our confidence in the Lord with our own weakness and wrong thinking because for a while we take our eyes off of Him and instead let a fog of doubt and worry surround us. The fog comes rolling in when I take my eyes off of the Lord. It is a miserable place to be when we feel like we have lost our way and can’t find a clear solution. There are multiple possibilities for our discouragement. We become impatient because we have already waited a very long time for answers. We might convince ourselves we have asked for too much or too big and back down from our asking. We don’t see...

The Lion, the Bear… And Your Circumstances

Standing at nearly ten-foot-tall, the man must have looked like an armored tank to young David. He wore a helmet of brass upon his head and a coat of scale armor of about 125 pounds of bronze. The bible describes the armor and war tools in details, giving us a vivid picture of Goliath’s fearsome stature and strength. David had come up from Bethlehem with the mere purpose of bringing food to his brothers, who were battling the Philistines in the valley of Elah. But as he arrived at the camp, he heard Goliath’s defiance and blasphemy against Israel’s God. And thus the battle became his. As David goes before Saul to ask permission to fight Goliath, his small stature surprises the king. He was but a boy, compared to the giant. Saul didn’t see how he could win. And then David tells him the story. “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:34-37 NASB) WOW. As I read this story for the umpteenth time this morning,...

In silence, God’s love still remains

One of the reasons I love the Psalms is because of their raw, poetic emotion. The writer David laments, sings for joy, prays openly against his enemies, and confesses his sins all in back-to-back chapters. It’s good material for a TV mini-series; and I guess, with a heart fraught by important sentiments during middle school, it resonated deeply with me. It was during this time in life that I understood writing as a practice of authenticity. Today, I see a comrade spirit in the Psalter, one whose reactions are real, strong, and sometimes manic. David’s expressions of justice, assistance, praise, and regret are validated by a God who calls David “a man after His own heart.” Raw responses. Real questions. Battlefield praise. Authentic worship. Often vocalizing an uncomfortable faith, the Davidic heart is known by God and deeply loved through its courageous emotional investigations. Because of the writer’s open relationship with God, he does not parse words. David knows God can take his direct and unabashed communication. In the 22nd Psalm, David’s cries typify a common theme of God’s silence found throughout the book. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest. If the first part of this Psalm sounds familiar, it should. These exact words were spoken by Christ in his dying moments. God’s own son, on the cross, cried out to his father in a way that indicated he felt abandoned by...

Tell It To My Heart

Remember that 1987 hit, the one by Taylor Dayne, ‘Tell It To My Heart?’ (I bet you’re looking it up now.) It’s like most other catchy 80’s tunes with a sticky chorus that’ll have you singing for days…or, in this case, decades. Anyway, I break into song in random ‘doings’ of the day, mostly when I’m alone. Recently, up to my elbows in dirty dishes, this was my little chant. It hit me. As of late, I’ve felt a real sense of losing in life. Just not dealing well, ya know? I typically deal with things in my head. I love ideas and information and putting lots of ‘stuff’ up there and reading and asking questions and seeking answers. And, I go to God. I really DO. But, my heart has been so, so heavy. Somewhere between the head and the heart, things just got spacey. It’s maddening. It came to a boil months ago. I had one of those hard conversations; you know, one of those ‘talks’ that are easy to put off, until you realize that they are inevitable. And it was GOOD. But it was HARD. And I was emotionally exposed. No amount of head knowledge or wisdom or experience can lift a heavy heart. I know this because I tried. Out of sheer determination, I TRIED. I still couldn’t be free. The heart. It’s like the emotional drum of the soul. Beat, beat, beating and longing and wishing and hoping and refusing to let go. I can decide in my head all day long NOT to be disappointed, hurt, or offended. But….Ohhhh my heart. I...