Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Still (a poem)

When the sun shines bright and all's aglow
     still - you are there.
When the leaves are stale and fallen low
     still - you are there.
When the winds howl long and strong and sweep
     still - you are there.
When the rain falls hard and fast and deep
     still - you are there.

You're there despite weather
          come rain, shine, wind, sleet;
You're there when I'm joyful
          or when I can't sleep.

I'm thankful for sunshine, for rain and for snow
But above all things else I'm grateful to know
that regardless of weather - within or without -
     still - you are there

     with me.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Today (a poem)

Today I feel like failure,
         full of anxiety, distracted;
                       ugly; lost;

Today I'd like to disappear,
                     and not come back again.

I don't know where this comes from;
How is this where I arrive?

But I take the next step
                         so far
                       but let's be honest -
                    what else is there to do?

So now I distract myself in the evenings,
         try to dream sweet dreams at night

And hope that in the morning
          I'll begin to feel alright.

It happens much too often -
               far more often than I'll say.
And if I could get rid of
   it for even just one day
I'd be a whole new person
                       motivated, faithful, true
      not distracted or afraid
   or separated from you.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Grief and Time

Grief is a weird thing.

Anyone who's gone through it knows that. Anyone who hasn't has heard that. It changes with each loss, and is different for each person and each experience. It can build on itself. It can be harder for some than for others, or for some experiences over others. My grief informs only so much of any one else's grief to tell me that I can't actually understand theirs completely, even if we're grieving the same loss.

My dear Aunt Lynn passed into the arms of Jesus early in the week of Thanksgiving. Her funeral was a couple weeks later as we began December and the celebrations of Christmas. The celebration was sweet together with the same family that said goodbye and celebrated the life of my grandfather (my aunt's father) just a few months ago in August. One thing that struck me heavily was how much of the legacy I spoke of with him was still so true for her. Difference experiences, a shifted sphere of influence, but so much of the same was true. Her love for Jesus overflowed from her (and my uncle) as they served God together and loved those around them.

I have been unable to write this post. I kept thinking of things with her, but wasn't able to articulate it with any sense of coherency. I'm not sure I'm there, but it's beyond time, and I'm ready enough to write. So here we are.

The weirdest part of my own experience is this: I have lost both my grandfathers now. One, I lost in 2011 (post: In Memoriam), the other, I lost just this past August (post: Living Legacy). I cried for each. I wasn't able to go to California in 2011 for Gramps' service. I was able to go to Illinois for Grandpa's this past summer. I cried a couple times - but only once really hard for each of them. That's been it. I still miss them, think of them, am grateful for my memories with and of them. But when they come to mind, it doesn't ever make me lose it.

I was also able to go to Aunt's service in December. You guys, there were so many flowers. She loved flowers. It was perfect. It was horrible. I wasn't ready to see her go home to Heaven. But in all that, I am thankful she is no longer suffering from the effects of the cancer that took her. She is still singing all the songs she sang to her very last days but she is singing them in the presence of the One they are for and about. I'm glad she's home, but man, I miss her. I think of my uncle often and pray for him as well. He lost his father one week to the day after he lost his wife. Most of his family is out of town, though our shared family is closer. How difficult. How unfair. And yet, we trust that God is good.

My aunt comes to mind and mostly I'm grateful, the way I am with my grandfathers. But I have cried over my loss of her more times than I can count. I'm so thankful for the way she loved, not just me, but all those God brought into her life. I hope I am a sliver of that way for others around me. You see? Her legacy, like that of my grandfathers, lives on and inspires and points the way to Jesus.

May it be so, and might my tears be used for His glory. And yet honestly, it'd be nice to stop crying at random times. I know this has been a bit of a jumble, so if you got through all of it you get a gold star. Just remember that 1) not all tears are evil, and 2) you never know what caused them. Give grace to your fellow travelers and love, too.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Legacy Leadership and you

For the past month I've been doing a devotional on Legacy Leadership (from the Bible App). It has been pretty good. Most days it hasn't been especially profound, but it has been full of good verses, good reminders, and the occasional glimmer of something more or new.

Yesterday morning, the last day of the plan, there was a comment that caught me. I don't think I've ever thought about this before.
"...if we are to be transformational leaders, we must be transformed. This transformation is not a one time, once-and-for-all-event. Rather, it is an ongoing process that takes place across a lifetime. Paul is the exemplar for this process. Without changing his fundamental personality, Jesus transformed Paul's character and redirected his life. Paul was transformed by his personal encounter with the risen Christ, and for the rest of his life he was being transformed into the image of Christ." 
This is one small paragraph from the devotional for the day. Even in this small section, there is much to unpack. However, what caught me was this: "Without changing his fundamental personality, Jesus transformed Paul's character and redirected his life."

All my life I have heard and seen Paul lifted up as the example of a life transformed, as a servant leader, and as the model after which to strive in every way. Now, I am not in any way saying this is wrong or even off the mark. But. When you look at this statement, and then look at Paul's life in conjunction with how he lived before and after his conversion, I think there is something huge here.

I am not a person who goes after people the way Paul did. I never have been. I'm an introvert, I'm deeply thoughtful, I'm detail-oriented and more of a behind-the-scenes person. Fitting that into what it looks to win people for Christ the way Paul did has not ever made sense, or even been easy to see how to strive for in my life. It means being completely outside of who I am. That being said, I have had examples of others (who are unlike Paul in personality) who have done much to share Christ and disciple people. And I'm highly relational, so in terms of caring and caring deeply, I'm matched perfectly with Paul.

But even before his conversion, Paul pursued (what he saw as) justice and law and his mission in life with gusto. He chased Christians (in order to punish and/or kill them) in such a manner that it was nearly impossible to imagine him not attaining his goal. He was a full-speed-ahead kind of guy. He put his entire heart and soul into what he did - even when it was wrong. So once he'd been confronted with Christ, and had realized the truth, his life changed drastically - but his personality didn't. He still pursued the cause (now of Christ and the Church) with his whole being, with all of his time and mind and heart. He was still Paul - but now redeemed and continually transforming into more of Christ.

This is what struck me. When Paul was created, the moment he was made, God knew and designed him for the mission he would later come to in his life. God also knew that this would cause much sadness and pain until the conversion of his soul. But he designed him JUST the way he ought to be.

The crazy thing? He did that with me, too. So, while I am not like Paul in most ways (and I still have -always- extremely far to go in emulating Christ), I don't have to be like Paul in his personality - but rather in his heart. That, I can do, because that is what is the example here. Emulating Christ. Being transformed. Below is some of the other pieces of the devotional that spoke to my heart.
"Legacy Leadership is more about who we are than what we do. Our being is more important than our doing; but, what we do flows from who we are. ... Legacy leaders understand that leadership is not about them but begins with them. ... They do not lead from a distance...they are among those they lead, and are not afraid to show compassion and emotion for their followers. ... As [their] followers are themselves transformed, they become examples for others and the legacy process is perpetuated, resulting in more leaders who make a difference now - and for generations to come." 
As with so many things, it isn't about me, but it begins with me. And if I become more like Christ and like people like Paul, in my own way (the way God designed me), then I can be part of the change in the world. In the end, that's worth more than anything else I could ever do, and it's being part of his plan and his transformational work.

Scripture for the day's devotional: 1 Thess. 1, 2:1-12

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Living Legacy

What does a living legacy look like?
     It looks like a son following the steps off his faithful father.
     It looks like a pastor shepherding his flock.
     It looks like a teacher who's heart is on fire only for God.
     It looks like a mentor who leads others around him - his family, his
          friends, his mission from God.
     It looks like a man who is faithful, redeemed -
     Who has strength that's not his, and it brings him to his knees.

A son and a brother, a husband, a father,
     an uncle, a grandpa and great-grandfather too.
A man who doesn't quit leading just because his job
     is "done,"
Who tells jokes and shares ice cream,
Who prays daily for you.

But this legacy isn't over.
It continues, even thrives.
There are many of us who call him family by blood,
And so many more in the family of God.

We are his legacy.
We remain, by God's grace, to carry it on.

So go forth, loved ones, and keep shining the Light.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The birth and crucifixion of Christ

Often in the past few years I have heard pastors and teachers talk about the relationship of the manger and the cross and try to explain better to their congregations the importance of understanding why we celebrate Christmas, really. We know the answer - we’ve been singing it since we were children.
Joy to the World, the Lord has come!

God rest you merry, gentlemen, 
Let nothing you dismay. 
Remember Christ our Savior 
Was born on Christmas Day; 
The very word, “Christ” is the equivalent of the word mashiach (מָשִׁ֫יחַ, messiah) in Hebrew. He is the anointed One of God – he was set apart for this special task: our salvation. But that word also has a greater connotation. The Kings of Israel were anointed and “the Lord’s anointed” or “anointed one” was most often used to refer to a king. So this word isn’t simply the word for our Savior, but our King. What a word. Christ Jesus. Anointed King Jesus, our Savior.

The words of a new(er) worship song from River Valley Church in Minnesota caught my heart yesterday. It is a song that would perhaps be more commonly used on Easter Sunday than Christmastime. I couldn’t help but notice the connection.
I see my Savior 
With love in His eyes
His body broken 
With no sin to hide 

I see my Jesus 
Eyes blind with blood 
His face is crimson 
His cry is love 

No wonder we call You Savior 
No wonder we sing Your praise 
Jesus our hope forever 
You made a way
That is the reason he came to earth as a baby. To die, in pain, blind with blood, filled with love, sinless; to give me hope. To save me. I’m getting choked up as I write this. Do you understand how unfathomable a love like that is? It is so far beyond anything I can really comprehend. There are people I care about so much I would do anything for them. I think I would even die for them - but having never been presented with such a situation, I don’t actually know. And I’m not a spouse or a parent, so I can only imagine how much more they feel that way for their spouse and/or children. If you are one (or both) of those, you likely have an even better idea what it means to love someone more than you imagined was possible, and the idea that you would do anything for them. But I wonder if you can even fathom, even begin to wrap your mind around how much God loved us that he came down, as a tiny little human – a helpless baby – with the express purpose of teaching us what it looks like to live perfectly, and then dying an excruciating, horrible death so that we might be saved from eternity away from him? What a concept.

There’s a bridge near the end of the song that says this:
See the light tearing through the darkness 
Hear the roar of the rugged cross
Jesus Christ You alone have saved us
We worship You now
See the light… When I heard these words, I thought of the Star of David, the one the wise men were tracking, seeking the infant king. The images we’ve seen depicted (wrongly, but so strikingly) of the light of that star shining so distinctly down on the manger scene (and occasionally on a little house with a toddler instead). See the light… Hear the roar of the rugged cross. The roar. What a thought. That as the light of Jesus came down to earth, as the brightness of his glory, his kingship, our salvation – our way out of darkness – shone ever clearer, the roar became ever louder. All the way through each moment of his 33 years on the face of the earth, that roar was a steady beat growing louder in his ears, toward his crucifixion. If you knew that was what you were facing, would you have come? I honestly don’t think I would.

Which is why it is so truly amazing that he did. He came. He walked the earth he created and lived among us. He died for us, blameless yet taking all the blame. All of it; for those who had died, for those who were living, for those (like me) who had not yet been born. I have a way out of darkness, and he is it. He is the Way.

No wonder we call You Savior. No wonder we sing Your praise.

During this season, while it is a time to celebrate – and it truly is – and a time for family and friends and maybe even some rest; might we not forget, even for a moment – not even one – the real reason we rejoice. He is King, and he came for me.

full lyrics and performance video here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

On Love

Well. Clearly I don't have enough time on my hands. I can hardly believe it's been almost 6 months since I wrote something here. Oops. Ah, well. Here we are again.

When I look back at my last post, its a little weird to realize that I am wrestling with much of the same. Since then I have moved to a new (and thankfully cheaper) apartment and I love it. The space is laid out in a way I like much better, and I have far more storage. Plus, it's not too much further from work (only about 10 minutes more), so that's nice too.

Things at my current job continue much as they have, though the promise of change (wahoo) has been presented (multiple times) and yet still with very little clarity on what it will actually look like or what effects it will have on specific departments and/or people.

I promise this has to do with love. Stay with me.

Because of those things mulling around and making me wonder if I'm doing what I ought to be doing, the following conversation shocked me a bit. Partly because I've been wondering lately (read: in the last year or so) if it is what I should be doing somehow, and partly because I cannot shake the desire I have to care for little people.

I had a conversation with my youngest brother about a month ago, in which we ended up somehow on the "what would you do if you had a million dollars" question. My go-to response is always: pay off my debts, pay off debts of my family (parents, brothers, etc.), help make my family stable, then see what I can do next (likely help someone somehow). Maybe buy a house. His response to me was something along the lines of "Oh. Yeah, I get that. But I think if you had a million dollars you'd start an orphanage."

It floored me. I have no idea how much I've said to him that I'd want to work with/care for orphans. (To be fair, I have an El Ed degree and have always loved kids but something as specific as an orphanage, well, I'm not sure how much we've talked about that... if ever.)  But he knew it to the point that it was what he expected me to do first with an overabundance. I said, "Well, yeah, that makes sense. I sort of have always wanted to do something like that. I love kids, and those kids need it most." He told me that that's exactly what he was thinking: my love of kids and my experience through a teaching degree, coupled with my administrative skill set and experience, running an orphanage seemed like the perfect thing.

Now, don't get me wrong. There is MUCH I don't know about running any type of business or anything in general much less an orphanage where you have to keep people alive and well and not neglected or starving (though plenty of places do just the opposite and are somehow still in business). But it struck a chord.

Today I saw an article posted by a friend's mom that talked about how many kids are literally dying - yes, you read that right: DYING - in orphanages today. Some because of disabilities so that the kids aren't seen as valuable enough to spend time caring for, some because of being grossly understaffed, some just because the convenience of a liquid diet and a cage are easier and keep your numbers of "cared for" up - sometimes because there seems to be no better way, and sometimes because they don't care. Why they work there/run the place boggles my mind. If you don't love children/orphans, WHY are you working in an orphanage??

The article was written by someone who had helped/visited/worked somewhere overseas and seen these terrible situations and couldn't get the kids who are dying out of her mind. She and her husband adopted a little boy from one of these places, and in just 6 months, of really loving and caring for him, he is SO MUCH BETTER. He has a disability (or maybe disabilities) that he will always live with that were present from birth, but he is not skin-and-bones - he is smiling; he is not banging his head against the bars of his crib (at 4 years old) - he is loved. She asks people to think seriously about adoption and what they can do - if not adopt themselves, donate to a family who is trying to bring their child home.

I don't know what to do with this, except to get it out, and to keep praying. I can donate, of course, and there are many places and ways to do so. Child sponsorship is another avenue.

So. If you have at least a million dollars to give away, and a heart for hurting kids, and want to donate to my cause... you know how to get a hold of me, right?

Seriously, though, be praying - not for me (or, not just for me), but for those kids. They need every prayer they can get. Love them through prayer if you can't do anything else. It matters, and it's powerful. Then, do what else you can.