Thursday, May 19, 2016

Thankful Thursday - It's Still Raining

It has been a rainy week here in Charlotte.
Days and nights of drizzle and downpours.
Downed trees and flooded basements.
We need the rain. Big time.
In some parts of the area, it's still raining.

It has been a rainy 90 days in our house.
Ninety days ago today, we entered a storm.
Thunder. Lightning. Dark nights. Cloudy days.
Many tears cried. Many prayers lifted.
I have come close to losing my joy.
Truthfully, I have had days when I felt no joy, no happiness, no hope.
There have been Thursdays when I couldn't bring myself to write a Thankful Thursday post.
It felt forced and phony, so I didn't bother.
It's still raining. The storm hasn't completely passed by us yet.
But I am grateful. Thankful.

For friends who bring meals and stay for a while to talk.
For friends who meet me at cafes to drink lemonade and talk.

For the wife who brought muffins and her husband who sent a letter of encouragement.
The note she included with the muffins contains a phrase that will surely be a future blog post, perhaps even the title of one of the books I have yet to write... I need to ask her permission to use it.
He sent the letter snail mail. A real letter in an envelope with a stamp.

And the other man in our church who sent a letter a couple of weeks ago. Handwritten with a stamp on the envelope.
The emails and notes and flowers and phone calls - a deluge of another kind. A deluge of love.
The pastors who have made hospital visits.

The friend who meets me in the prayer room and holds my hand. Hugs me. Makes me laugh in the midst of my weeping.

For wine and coffee and matcha green tea lattes and fresh juices and kombucha.

For medical insurance and hospitals and nurses and techs and doctors.

For good lawyers and guardians ad litem when you need them.
For the legal system - especially when it works smoothly and in your favor.

For text messages from other mothers in similarly difficult situations.
For those moments when I know that I know that I know that I am not alone.

For being able to speak Spanish - to encourage another family in the same situation at the hospital.

For a new therapist that I love. She makes me laugh and cry and think and hold on to hope.

I am grateful for my dear friend, Karen, who introduced me to the song from which the title of this blog post is taken: "Praise You in This Storm" by Casting Crowns.

It is still raining.
The wind of fear and doubt still blows fiercely within and around me.
Our hearts are torn.

But God walks with us.
God is at work.
We are being shaped, transformed.
As a family. As individuals.

I am grateful for the ways in which this storm, this ongoing storm, has changed the way that I pray, read the Bible, think about God and family and love and friendship and my whole life. One of the pastors in my church, after listening to me tell the latest chapter of the latest saga, said, "I hope this doesn't sound trite, but this is going to shape your ministry." I feel it shaping me in unexpected ways already. Perhaps I can be a hospital or prison chaplain - speaking and listening and praying and writing and encouraging in English and Spanish. Sitting and walking with others who are still in the storm, into whose lives it's still raining.

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Don't Help Him"

My husband has baseball in his blood.
He loves basketball and tennis and football.
But baseball is his true love.
He has played since childhood. Little league. High school. College.
Even some low level almost-semi-pro baseball during the summers of his late teen years and early twenties.
Shortstop. Third base. Second base.
Even now, after passing the half century mark (which I have also passed), he continues to play baseball.
I attended his team's game yesterday.

Late in the game, one of the players on Steve's team began to "talk smack" to and about the pitcher from the other team.

"The ump took pity on you and called that a strike."
"He's gonna pitch it high or higher."
"He can't throw a strike."
"Don't help him."

That last line caught my attention.
If the pitcher is pitching high or higher, don't swing at it.
Don't waste one of your strikes by swinging at a high pitch.
Make him throw strikes; don't swing at the bad pitches.
Don't help him.

When I jotted that line down in my journal there at the game, I wrote,
"Glad that's not a life motto. At least it's not mine...
or is it?
How often do I not help?
Turn away. Ignore. Taunt. Make excuses for not helping."

My mind quickly moved from congratulating myself for a higher way of thinking and living than that baseball player to recognizing how often I do think and live with that very thought in mind: "Don't help him."

Don't help the person whose politics I reject.
Don't help the person who was rude to me after class that Saturday evening.
Don't help the person who constantly interrupts me when I talk.
Don't help the person who belittles gay people, transgender people, poor people, people of color.
Don't help the person who thinks I shouldn't be in seminary because I am a woman.
Don't help the person who reads and understands the Bible differently than I do.
Don't help her.
Don't help him.
Don't help them - whoever I decide "they" are.

I'm gonna spend some time in these next few days and weeks pondering the people I have chosen not to help, chosen to ignore, chosen to taunt. Including people I claim to love. Including my family and friends. Including myself.

My husband's team lost the game yesterday, 17-15. Quite the high scoring affair.
That noisy player nearly came to blows with one of the pitchers from the opposing team.
I guess all of his comments from the dugout had accomplished exactly what he had hoped: he annoyed the players on the other team enough to draw angry and vengeful words from his opponents and the intervention of the umpires.
As the guy from the other shouted at and began to shove him, I wanted to scream,
"Don't help him."

Saturday, May 07, 2016


One of Jesus' better known parables is the one about "the prodigal son." The younger of two sons asked for his inheritance, receives it, and heads out into the big, bad world to have some fun. He spends it all and ends up with a dead end job, feeding pigs. Not a great gig. At least not for him.

The New International Version of Luke 15:17 says, "When he came to his senses, he said, 'how many of my father's hired men have food to spare and here I am starving to death?'" 

He practiced his speech, the thing he would say to his father, the apology, the plea for reinstatement in the household - as a servant, not as a son. He had spent everything his father had given him - his excessiveness is what earned him the title of "the prodigal son" - prodigal meaning spending money or resources lavishly or recklessly.

I have come to believe that the truly prodigal person in that story is the father. Because the father gave him the inheritance - even though he must have known it would mean that his son would leave home and waste the money. Verse 20 says - So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

Today, that phrase, "when he came to his senses" is speaking volumes to me. 

Someone I love dearly, someone I miss terribly, is on a journey.
A difficult journey.
Far, far from home.
Far from her senses.
Far from herself, most of all.

(Lord, the one you love is sick.)

I pray daily, hourly, ceaselessly, to be able to use that phrase -
"when she came to her senses..."
In the past tense - that coming to her senses is a turning point that we can look back on.

(Lord, in your mercy, please please please, bring her back to her senses. Bring her senses back to her. For your glory and for her good. We plead. We beg. We beseech you.)

When she comes to her senses, she will see that many, many people have been looking out for her return.

When she comes to her senses, I will run to her and embrace her and kiss her one thousand times.

When she comes to her senses, she will be welcomed home with a grand celebration.

When she comes to her senses, she will be inundated with love and laughter and shouts of joy.

When she comes to her senses, she will both utter and hear testimony to God's faithfulness, to the love and support of family and friends, and to the strength and efficacy of prayer - even when she didn't know what was going on, even when we all struggled to maintain hope, even when we felt our hearts shredded by sorrow, even then, God was and is faithful and present and working on her behalf.

When she comes to her senses, there will be excessive displays of love and affection for days on end.

(How long, Lord? How long?)

I know I've written about this parable before. 
I'm sure I will write about it again.
With each reading, 
with each passing day of this challenging journey,
I learn more. I feel more. I want to ponder it more.
And now that I am studying Biblical Greek, 
I am sure I will write about it again, having read it in its original language.

(Lord, please give her a palpable sense of your presence, your love, your comfort, your healing power. Even tonight. Please bring her back to her senses and bring her back home. Please.)