Black Snow

Easter is all about black snow.

Black Snow

Winter has overstayed it’s welcome for most of us this year.  It’s the beginning of April and mountains of black snow litter the landscape. It makes me tired just looking at it.

It was so beautiful when it first arrived.  All white and sparkly; like tiny crystal ballerina’s that floated down from Heaven to dance upon earth’s floor.  Snow inspires. Snow refreshens. Snow is a miracle… but when it lingers too long it no longer wears white.

Hence, black snow. Nobody likes black snow. Black snow is unappealing.  Black snow discourages. Black snow wastes space and hides beauty.

The first book of the Bible reveals the roots of our black snow.  Mankind lingered too long with deception and before long they were wearing shame.

If it weren’t for this event entering the timeline of humanity there would be no Easter.  Easter comes to take all that makes the snow black.

Easter pulls the soiled mess off humanity and owns it.

Snow wasn’t created to be shrouded in dirty garbage and sit in piles off the edges of society.  It was created for purpose and beauty and to mingle among the Living.

I am eager for Easter this year. I am eager to hear Easters story and remember that He has already owned my black snow. I have forgotten this and I feel the weight of dirt on my  shoulders again.  But I too mingle too long with deception and I wear a shame that is no longer there. Welcome Easter, come dance upon my soul and sing freedoms song.  Whisper Your love songs to my heart for I melt when you sing to me and I become white as snow.

Easter is all about black snow.

And the One sitting on the throne said, ‘Look I am making everything new!’

~ Revelation 21:5

Welcome Easter!

Don’t Forget The Pain

I’m sure you’ve heard some women say regarding the birthing process, “once you see that baby you forget the pain”.

Seriously???

I went through it.  Twice.  I can remember every ounce of pain just like it was yesterday. Were my kids worth it?  Absolutely.  Would I want to go through it again. Absolutely not.  Would I go through it again if it meant a life was delivered?  Absolutely.

We can’t dismiss the presence of pain in life’s deliveries.  It has a point.  It has a purpose.

It took a lot of work to get my kids into this world, especially my son.  It hurt like mad.  No one else could do it but me.  My husband has permanent loss of feeling in one of his hands due to how tightly I was squeezing it.

But here’s what I learned about pain with my child birth experiences.

  1. It activated change – those kids weren’t going to enter life without the painful motion of labor
  2. It activated rhythm – there is a tempo to the pain that set me in sync with something bigger
  3. It activated unity – the help of the yet to born child and my husband taught me teamwork

The pain wasn’t pointless. I don’t want to forget the pain.  I don’t want to forget the memories of labor because everything beautiful, good and precious comes with a price.

This is the time of year we are inundated with all things Easter.  And just like in the Christmas season we are frantically trying to find ways to remember Jesus and remember  the Cross.  We adopt certain traditions and practices to connect us to Jesus, to honor Him, to listen to the story once again hoping to find something fresh.

If we want to go deeper with Easter, I say we begin with pain.

Look at your pain.

Every pain you’ve felt, whether it be from your own doing, from someone else’s doing or with no explanation at all is the result of the absence of God somewhere.  Every fall out from bad decisions, whether it be from you, from someone else’s doing or with no explanation at all is a result that God is needed  somewhere.

God doesn’t want to be absent anymore.  But we have to acknowledge pain to open the door for God.

Pain is the space between us and God.  A gap that needs closing.

Our pain can teach us something too.

It can activate change – every pain has an invitation from Jesus to let Him do something with it
It can activate rhythm – pain can reveal God’s songs and draw us toward His melody
It can activate teamwork – pain exposes loneliness, God waits to be present to us.

Our pain is God’s absence in every possible way.  He can lift the pain, oh yes, but the hurt remains. Hurt is the afterglow of pain. Hurt is the surrendering of one’s will to the unknown will of God. Hurt is many things.  God hurts.

Hurt and pain are two different things.

God and hurt can co-existPain and God cannot.

Pain is the companion of the Cross.  It’s the point of the Cross.

The Cross bears it.

So when you are done looking at your pain.

Look at the Cross.

Cross of Colors

Cross of Colors

See if you can find your pain there.  See if you can identify your sin.  See the gap. When we see our pain, our sin, our gap….we will find Jesus.

Fixing the Brakes

This weekend my husband had to fix the brakes on my car. They had been squealing for a while.  We knew it had to happen but hadn’t had the time to do anything about it.

The squeal turned into a growl.  It was time to do something.

Another Sunday afternoon was devoted to resolving one of life’s conflicts.

Fixing things can be inconvenient sometimes.  I wish life moved flawlessly and without interruption.

But sometimes stopping to fix things can save your life.

Is there something squealing in your life?  Has it turned into a growl that you can no longer ignore? Do you fear the unknown?  Do you think you won’t be able to understand it or deal with it?  I sometimes feel this way.

In the last few years I have had a lot of things break down in my life, air conditioners and muscles and tendons, computers and relational cohesiveness, refrigerators and fellowship with God.  Many areas have gone way past the squeal and turned into a growl before I did anything about it.  I’m learning to recognize the signs of brokenness in my life.  Some of the symptoms have patterns.  When I look at the patterns I hear the squeal (or growl).  These have been some of my warning signals:

  1. Something hurts in my body or mind. A mental or physical pain that never leaves and/or consumes.
  2. The folks closest to me annoy me very quickly. (Usually my own tribe.) An irritable heart tends to reflect the most on those who know us best.
  3. My “want to” has gotten up and went.  The desire to go places, be with people, eat healthy, etc. (fill in the blank), has somewhat diminished.
  4. Continuing to make the same mistake over and over again.
  5. Creativity dries up. Thinking creatively whether it be problem solving, crafting something, using imagination, devising some sort of plan for something pertinent or creatively communicating is like trying to draw water from an empty well.  Creativity is a function of a well nurtured life.  When our creativity is lacking, the flow of imaginative thinking has been stopped somewhere.

Can you relate to any of these?  I’m sure there are more symptoms, these have been mine.

Does something in your life need attention.  It’s not selfish to devote time to yourself and address these things.

I drive other people in my car.  My husband didn’t just fix the brakes for me, but for the safety of others.  When you examine the squeals in your life and determine to repair them, you are considering the well being of others.

I can’t imagine a better way to love the people in your life.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. ~ I Peter 4:8

Like is the New Love

So I’m sure you’ve heard the expression,

I know I have to love (fill in the blank) but I sure don’t have to like him!

I’ve said it before.  But I’m thinking twice about it now.

Solid Rock Love

Solid Rock Love

I was laughing with a friend the other day about the fact that I have no problem loving my husband but some days I have to work at liking  him.

We laughed pretty hard because we both know how true this is with relationships.  But then I began to wrestle with it.  Is it really possible to love someone and not like them?  Does love work that way?

I thought about this dilemma long after my conversation was over with my friend.  I began to feel uncomfortable with the idea that loving and not-liking someone is compatable. Maybe liking someone is a component of loving and when we dislike we dis-love?

Jesus was traveling through a town called Jericho. At this point Jesus was kind of a rock star.  Naturally a crowd would gather around Him.  There was a man named Zaccheus who was curious about Jesus.  He too wanted to get a look at him.  But being a short man he couldn’t see over the crowd so he climbed up in a tree to be able to catch a glimpse. But being height challenged wasn’t his only problem.

Nobody liked him.

He was dispised by people in his community. And with good reason.  He was a jerk. (You can read the story here, Luke 19:1-10) Jesus did something remarkable and scandalous. He liked him.  While in a crowd of haters, Jesus liked.  In front of a big crowd, He told Zaccheus that He would be coming over to his house to hang out.  Now in those days this was really daring.  To talk to, let alone have a meal with, someone that the community deemed unworthy was like sleeping with the enemy.  You just didn’t cross those lines.  Your own reputation was then damaged if you did.

But maybe that’s the problem with dis-liking, the focus is on me.  When I don’t like someone it’s because they offend me on some level.  They irritate me or make me loose my patience, they are slow or irresponsible, selfish or mean, they are two faced or gossips, they can’t be trusted or arrogant, maybe they just rub me the wrong way.  Trying to live in a world with other human beings is work. It’s easier to dislike someone that it is to work at liking them. I’m really more comfortable that way. So yea, it’s all about me.

The people in Jericho had good cause to dislike Zaccheus.  He really wasn’t a good guy.

But Jesus shows us a side of love that has given me food for thought.  He separates the person from the behavior. With His reputation on the line He doesn’t give into the pressure to please the crowd around Him. Jesus likes Zaccheus certainly not because Zaccheus was likable, but because He was able to see past Zaccheus actions and into his humanity.  Jesus loves all men and women, no matter what.

Love makes room for like.

So what is going on in me when I struggle to “like”?  People behave in ways where it makes it really hard to like them.  It’s just crazy to think that we won’t be affected by someone when their actions offend and disrupt our lives. To dislike is NOT a sin but rather a symptom that there is still work to be done in me. 

Perhaps I need more of the grace, patience, forgiveness, understanding, correction, affirmation, opportunity and kindness of God so that I am able to pour it out when someone is acting in an “unlikable” way?

  • Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to dislike someone?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to not get so frustrated or annoyed by others who we just don’t like?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to see someones humanity and not only see the offense?
  • Wouldn’t it be nice to be a little more like Jesus?

So when I’m symptomatic with dislike it’s because I need a little more of Jesus. And although it’s natural say I love and not like someone at the same time, I think Jesus is asking me to help write a greater story with my life.  To call people out of trees and work at liking more.

Like is the new love.

There’s a Hole in the Sky

There’s a hole in the sky today.

Hole In The Sky

Hole In The Sky

It caught me by surprise.   I didn’t know there could be holes in the sky but there it was.  Layers upon layers of condensed clouds rolling back and forth above me.  Ever so subtly a hole opened up.  If I wasn’t looking up I would have missed it.

Holes open up all over the place.  Just yesterday I saw on the news that a sink hole opened up on a paved road and a parked car fell in. My nieces husband had a new business opportunity open up. The ice on my driveway opened up… a little… this past weekend.

Things open up everywhere.

The question is, am I looking?

There was a mother who lived many many generations ago.  She lived in a time and place that doesn’t make sense to us today.  The manner of living, the regulations, the conditions would be foreign, barbaric, and even ignorant to us.  In her world she was a slave.  In her world she had virtually no control over her situation.

Although a slave, she was also a wife and mother.  She had people she loved and cared for.  But the days were dangerous and all slaves were required to end the life of any newborn boys born to them.  The slaves multiplied despite the unthinkable scenario and the ruler was frightened by them.

This mother found herself pregnant with her third child. Her predicament looked impossible.  Her heart agonized over the forced ruling.

But she saw a hole in the sky.

Something was opening up inside her.  A new idea, a new faith, a new hope and it changed they way she lived life, even in her impossible situation.

Somehow she hid the baby.  Of course it was a boy.  She managed to keep him safe and alive when all the other slave mothers couldn’t. The boy lived and ended up changing the world.

It began with this one woman who saw a “hole in the sky” of her life. When she thought she was in an unalterable situation, she looked up.

Where we look will often change what we think.  What we think will change what we believe.  What we believe will most certainly change what we do.  What we do always impacts somebody….good or bad.

So, where are we looking?

 

The woman in this story is the mother of Moses, Jacobed, as found in Exodus 2:1-10.

God of the Snow Piles

Like so much of the rest of the country, I am living through snow apocalypse.  There is some serious snow here in MI.  My ancient snow blower has gotten so much use this winter.  Currently it is being held together by a bungie cord and I hope it will last for the remainder of the winter!

I live at the end of a street.  The snow plows collect all the the snow at the top of the street and begin pushing it down my street with their plows.  Great strategy on their part.  Not so great for me.  An unfair amount of snow gets distributed at the end of my driveway compared to other neighbors on the street.  So much so that you can’t drive your car over it and my snow blower is too “delicate” to handle the icy chunks!  You could say, I get more than my share of the neighborhood snow.

Do you ever feel that you get more than your share of life’s problems?

Snow Blocked

Snow Blocked

Well it happened the other day as it has in the past.  The plows came through and buried me.  Because we do have to leave the house once in a while, I went out, yet again, to dig out.  The snow on the sides of the driveway are so high that I had to scoop up the snow and fling it over the piles into the yard.

I must have looked pathetic because the neighbor across the street who was snow blowing his neighbors driveway, came over to help.

Whoa! He exclaimed as he looked at my mess.  Does that happen every time?

Yes Derrik, it does!

So without hesitation he began to rescue me.

Now I don’t know if it was because I looked so pitiful with my 7 layers of clothing and hats or that I was so out of breath that he was worried I would have a heart attack or something…but in his kindness he went after the pile.

I continued shoveling alongside him, mostly because I didn’t want him to think I was a freeloader who timed her shoveling at the precise time he was clearing his neighbors driveway.  Or that I wasn’t capable of shoveling it myself, I have done it several times by myself already.

I was appreciative because I was tired and felt alone, there were no other family members available to help me.  I’m sure when he walked over he didn’t realize how big my snow pile was and yet he helped me anyway. But I was still so frustrated by the whole thing.

As I shoveled and Derrik snow blowed, I got a distinct impression God was trying to embed something in me. I had to deal with the snow blocked driveway in order to experience the kindness of another.  

Without the problem I wouldn’t have been positioned to receive the blessing.

The struggle was a gateway to the savior.

Often times I don’t want to know the God of the struggle.  I want to know the victory lane God, the overcomer God, the healer God.  But that’s not how it works with God.  That’s not how it works in life.  There are winning moments and losing moments in the span of a lifetime.  God wants me to know all of Him, including the God that is present in the pain, frustration, sorrow, anger, disappointment, depression, and discouragement.

When I think that God’s presence is known only in the good moments of life I misunderstand Him and underestimate His character.

I want to live on the mountain top, not the valley.  But the God of the valley is just as poignant as the God of the mountain top.  When I am in the valley it’s harder to receive God’s presence. I think that what was bothering me.  When I’m in a valley situation, I dwell on the darkness of where I am and not on God.  My thoughts remain on the struggle instead of focusing on the God in the struggle with me. I think most of us can relate to this.  It’s not wrong that we can’t focus on God, its just what happens because life is hard.

It’s a curious thing to experience struggle and God at the same time.  You’d think that the moment He makes Himself known the “problems” would resolve?  But that’s not always the case.  Some times he comes up along side and says:

I’m here. Let’s do this together.

And the point isn’t that the struggles didn’t go away or that I’m still in the valley, it’s that God is there in it.  With me.

He visits us to reclaim us. To strengthen us.  To change our perspective. To sit with us in our uncertainty. To remind us that we are not able to carry the load alone.

The struggle doesn’t define God. It defines us.

The God of the snow pile isn’t always the God I want to know.  But He is the One that showed up the other day.  The snow was removed but the weather man says more snow is on its’ way so I will be out there again, I’m sure… with the God of the snow pile.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” ~Psalm 139:7-8

Dropping Trash

I had just finished putting my groceries in the back of the car.  I turned to return my cart when I saw a woman walking toward the grocery store entrance.  She was carrying a bunch of news paper flyers under her arm.

She dropped one.

Without missing a step she looked down at the paper she had just dropped and kept walking.

There it was.

An entire Walgreens circular laying for all to see in the parking lot and she wasn’t going to do a thing about it!  She just looked and kept on walking.

I was disgusted!

I don’t understand people like her! My internal mouth began spewing. How hard is it to pick up something you dropped and throw it in the trash?  People like her don’t care about anybody but themselves!  Who does she think is going to pick that up? 

I was on a roll.

People like her need to change their reckless behavior to make this world a better place.

And then I got hit.

It wasn’t by a car or a shopping cart.  Words hit me upside the head.

People like you need to change your judgmental attitude to make this world a better place.

What? I didn’t see that coming. The problem was not with the lady.  It was with me.  I had critiqued her of her lack of concern and then went on to say harsh things in my head about her. I had lumped who she was with what she had done and called it not good.

I had judged her.

I had convicted her of a crime in my mind and sentenced her to be tossed into the pit of “those other people who do wrong things”.  The reality is that I’m in that pit.

Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.” (Luke 6:37 NLT)

Judging is a tricky thing.  It seeps into our thoughts in such a sneaky way.  Truth be told we don’t always know how not to judge.  I mean it’s almost impossible to ignore blatant wrong doing.  But where we take a misguided turn is when we haul the alleged “wrong-doer” into our internal court system and appoint ourselves judge over them.

It’s not their behavior that Jesus tells me to focus on, it’s my behavior and my thoughts.

It is possible to observe behavior that in fact is wrong and at the same time not judge the person(s) who do it. But it isn’t a natural thing to do. It takes redirecting our thoughts and reminding ourselves that we are not the judge of other human beings.  Only God is.  Our society has made provision for judging behavior that is detrimental to society but to judge another’s soul is something only God can do.

That’s the thing about life with Jesus.  He teaches us that God is…well…God and we’re not. And then He gets us to reflect on our inside world, our heart and our thoughts and mind.  The birth place of transformation and the resting place of His Spirit.  He didn’t tell me to get everyone else to live right.  He told me to live right and that when I did it would have a trickle down effect on the lives around me.

I was convicted in that parking lot that what was in my thoughts was the real trash that day.

So I walked over to the paper the woman had dropped and I picked it up and threw it away.  But I wasn’t throwing away her trash.  I was throwing away mine.