Resurrection: on death and life

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” (John 11:39)

Death stinks.

It just does. The smell is irrepressible and universally offensive.

We have some mice in our house, in our walls, that have died, and they offend our senses when we pass the place where they are decomposing. I wish I could remove them, but I would have to drill a hole in the walls to take them out, and so, instead I just wait for the natural process to complete itself, but in the meantime, we all suffer.

It is true in all of life, that death stinks and until it is rooted out, we all suffer.

There are places in my heart where things are not filled with life. I know them; they seem easier to keep than to dig up, but they cause little growth for me or my family.

I have suffered much of my life with comparision. It started for me being one of two girls in the family, and somehow being the less fair, less witty, less adorable, less sweet made me the one that was ultimately less in our family system.

I have spent much of my life trying to close this gap, but no longer with my sister and in my mother’s eyes, rather with many many women along the way. If I could convince one other person I was as good as them or even better, maybe I would finally feel the equality settled and know that, I too, was worth something.

This never worked for me. In fact, it often worked against me. And, it wasn’t until I had a daughter of my own that I realized I did not want this infection growing into the next generation of women in my family. I wanted the death to be gone.

Where Jesus asked the stone to be rolled away to bring his resurrecting life to Lazarus, Jesus asks me to roll away the stones of areas I have hidden the scent of death and to allow his light to bring new life.

I began to roll away the stone of my hardened and bitter heart, years of feeling rejected and alone, and Jesus filled those empty, dry, and dead places with his incredible life, vivacious and green.

What joy, to have this fresh fragrant life available everyday, if only I will let Jesus have the stones rolled away.  In this, life is infused into my heart and into everyone I touch throughout the day.  Life and not death.  What a find.


Love: on children

“The soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” 1 Samuel 18:1

I feel that way, and it is times four. To have children, and to choose them, is to have four little souls of yours walking around, outside of you but always part of you.

It is impossible at times and the most incredible at others.

I remember the first days of my daughters’ life, not sleeping just to watch her every breath with wonder and awe. I was clapping, literally clapping with glee in bed with her next to me, unable to close my eyes lest I miss one little moment of her life.

I did sleep, eventually, and there were moments that were tough, particularly when she cried endlessly for hours a day, the first few months of her life. When she got sick, I worried. And when she found her will, I first did not know how to discipline. Learning how to, was really hard.

But the hardest part, the most difficult, is protecting her from the things in this world that are wrong and broken and tough to face.

It is so important for me to find ways to protect her from the ugly, sinful, yuckies of this world and give her the beauty, the goodness, and the truth God intents for her.

It always costs me to do so, usually my time, focus, and energy. I have to keep my soul connected to each of my children and can not let myself slack in my active engagement. Yet, when I do lean into who she is, who each of my children are and are becoming; when I watch their world and surround them with good experiences and rich ideas, and lovely images, and keep the truth of their need for growth guiding our interactions, there is a deep joy and contentment that I could never had known any other way.

What a beautiful thing God has done in giving us love. He exists in it, and as we love, we experience God.

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1 John 4:16

What an amazing gift that God has offered to each of us who are parents. Every day, we get to rise from our beds, shake off the nights rest, and choose love, again. And in this way, we live in God and God lives in us.

Our souls are bound, the choice is ours, and when we do choose to love those little ones, we find God.

Faith: on driving with my 4 year old

“A double minded man unstable in all he does” daily convicts me.

My children are working through the book of James, reciting to me the whole of it as they copy it down to memory. I can be making my bed, or finishing dishes, or just popping off of facebook, and I am wisked past the scattered tribes, opened to considering it all joy, and then am asked to have faith, to not doubt.

It stuns me every time.

Faith, such a simple idea, so straightforward.

It scares me though. The living out of it. The waiting.

Late at night, the prayers trickle off my tongue, singing the truths I want to see. There are hopes, there are dreams, healings, changes, futures, and I lay them all bare, before my God, as I fall into slumber.

It is the day light of them that is the hardest. The unanswered and the unknown. The tragedies and the no, no my dear, no. I always resist the no. But it is the “not yet” that holds me still the longest, against a wall, pleading, waiting, stillness.

My 4 year old took me to task on an old one, one we have asked for most of his life. “Mommy, when you gonna have babies? When you gonna grow fat and I can help with diapers? I want babies, I want two babies, I want twins”. All this, at a stoplight. Me a million miles away.

Startled back into the car, I hear his request. It is so simple. We both agree it is what we want. I respond, “Let’s ask God, who gives us all things. God can give mommy babies.”

And I do pray, repeating every word, adding that they be healthy babies, chuckling with the word fat.

My tender 4 year old boy doesn’t mean fat in an unkind way. To him, fat is the sweet roundness of a mother’s pregnancy, the sturdy Santa in his suit, his own love of pulling up his shirt after a big meal and showing all the fullness therein. Fat is happy, full, lacking in nothing. Fat is pure joy, and he wants it for me.

The smile sits on my face as I continue in the sweet thoughts of my sons descriptions when he leads me back to the matters at hand.

“God can’t hear us. We in the car, we so little, and He so big. God can’t hear us, can he?”

I hold my breath.

“Well, maybe God so very big that He can here even our tiny voices in the car”.

I don’t know how to respond. Is he so very wrong? Am I so very different from a 4 year old in my faith? Can God hear me in the car, is God a God of stoplights, and 4 year old prayers, and babies coming to late in life wishes? Is my little voice loud enough?

I remember back to the morning chores, me rushing about, my older two trailing me with their memory verses.

What did they say? What was God’s point?

Perfection, completeness, lacking in nothing is possible. But it is only possible through perserverance. Is that what prayer is?

Testing of your faith…when it comes, not if, but when….consider it all joy. Prayer as testing, prayer as perserverance, prayer as never doubting.

James so boldly assures us that God answers our prayers for wisdom, where we lack, He generously gives.

So I must perserver in the testing of my faith. Even as I ask, I must know He will give – at the very least – wisdom in the matters I ask, and maybe even, a yes to the request for more babies. But I must not doubt, or give up. Until the wisdom comes, I can keep asking with the knowledge that I will be complete, lacking in nothing, perfect, as I push through the testing of my faith, as I perservere.

Back in the car, I turn to my son, “Yes, Jeremiah, you are right. God is sooo big that He can hear our tiny voices. Even in the car, even our little prayers. He hears, and He will give us his wise answer.”

Satisfied, he relaxes in his carseat. The light changes. And as the signal invites, I accept, and drive forward, boldly, full.

Leadings: on ash wednesday

“Turn away from sin, repent, and hear the Good News”

Dark black ash pressed upon my forehead, the tiny frail woman ministering faithfully her duty moved on to the next penitent. A numbness overcame me as I rustle back to my seat.

“I need to chat with God for a moment”, I whispered to my children as we filed back to our pew. “Give mommy a minute to talk to God”.

The children patiently waiting, my questions flying. “Why God? Why me, why the words repent, turn, hear?”

You see, when the ashes are given, the traditional reminder heard is “Remember man you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. A sombering message in of itself.

Yet my ashes came with a muddling of the least common blessings. The rarity stood out in stark contrast to the more settling humility enducing statement. Here I was asked to consider my sin.

I have always felt different.

Where others have a calm and consistent manner, I have a storm raging within. Where others find following the crowd conforting, I find conformity unsettling. Questions are my constant companion, and discovery seems ever elusive. Even my salvation is one that seems an engagement in wrestling, wrestling down the illusions without, the demons within, and the constant dissatisfaction to change that which is wrong and make it right.

This was not news to me, that God would angle me toward the one minister in the church delivering the alternative ash blessing. Or maybe, she was prompted to give the harsher termed one, more often heard in medieval churches than in modern, the one that left little to the imagination, just for me. This was just like God to ask so much more of me than he seemed to ask of everyone else.

I smiled with God as I knelt. Knowingly, we spoke.

“Oh Mary Robin, Mary Robin, how often I have wished to calm your storms, but you would not have me. Turn away from sin, and hear the Good News. Repent!”

“Oh Lord, Iam but dust, and my storms are all encompassing. What can I, a mere mortal, do when I face you?”

“Hear, Turn, Repent”

Peeking up, the children beginning to kick the wood of their seats, the sound echoing through the vast cathedral ceilings. I gave myself one more minute to pause.

“I am here, I will repent of the sin of my self-sufficiency, I will turn from my belief only in what I can do. Show me the eye to my storm, how you can fix me there, and I will hear you now, I am listening”

It was less a promise than a plea, less a vow than a prayerfilled cry.

In my minds eye, I saw Him smiling at me with pleasure. Him not looking at the maddening mess of a person I supposed I was, but him pleased with the mindful servant I so desperately wanted to be.

I stood, my children rushing out the door to the light of day. Me, following, rushing into the sweet lightness of being in Him.