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Archive for August, 2019

Breathtaking Love

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Neither of these two women consider themselves Christian.

In fact, after growing up in a Christian home, they have eschewed the title, the practice, the faith.

But their practice of virtue is breathtaking.

One is married to a man whose father has never been kind to her.  In fact, the ugliness and inappropriate nature of his advances toward her, his lifestyle, and behavior have done anything but enrich her life.

Last week, he overdosed.

It was the smell that alerted his neighbors.  When the police and the coroners arrived on scene, he had been dead many days.  Things broke open when they moved the body.  The apartment was a mess.  A big, liquid, ghastly-smelling mess.

Her husband, stunned, went home.  With family arriving the next day to remove his belongings from the apartment, this woman called cleaning service after cleaning service.  The prices to clean up such a scene were in the multiple thousands of dollars, well beyond their means.

“My husband’s grandma has a bad heart,” she told me on the phone as she gathered supplies at the hardware store.  “I really don’t want her to walk in there tomorrow and see all that.”  So, in the middle of the night, she went alone to the apartment and cleaned up what I hope is the very worst chaos she will ever see.  Then, she went home to comfort her husband.

Relatives arrived and stayed in her house.  For a week, she fed them, handled the cremation, the burial, the memorial service.  She even filled lockets with ashes, sifting through the urn’s contents with a care that had never been extended to her by the dust’s owner.  All of this she did with kind words and not a trace of bitterness.

Her sister, learning the weight the woman carried, drove through three states in the middle of the night to stand by her side.  While the husband’s family gathered, the sisters took care of one another, anticipating needs, extending support, creating a safe, comfortable environment for the grieving family.  Then, without fanfare, the sister drove home again.

Of all the virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love reign.  But the greatest of these is a love undeserved.  A love extended to one who has no human right to expect it.  A love that creates order in a place that would turn most people’s stomachs, comforts those who grieve for one who gave no kindness.  A love that covers great distance and stands like a rock to support another.

That love is breathtaking.

In the Swirl

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I’m reeling under several simultaneous blows – the overdose death of an acquaintance,  a struggling child, news of another mass shooting.  Underlying it all, the knowledge that the tempo of violence is increasing.

Where is God when the world is a spinning mess like this? What is a powerless person to do in the face of overwhelming evil?

I was lamenting the state of affairs to God this morning, and he brought back to me a scene in which I saw the simple answer.

It was early October, and the warm southern sunshine belied the date.  With children in tow, my husband and I approached the Fun House at Fox Farm, a popular local fall attraction famous for hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkins.

I climbed three stairs and entered the dark building at the open side where two narrow boards with railings formed the walkway.  Inside the building was a cylindrical tube like an enormous paper towel core.  Painted dark blue with sparkling stars, the tube encircled the path, rotating around me in a whirl of lights and distorted peripheral vision.

I immediately lost my balance and fell against the rail, trying to find which direction was upright as the horizon rotated from my right to my left at dizzying speed.

Only a moment passed before I realized it was the visual effect of the spinning around me that made me lose my balance.  The path under my feet was unchanging, the rail supporting and protecting me from a fall.

The second time I crashed into the rail, I closed my eyes, effectively shutting out the whirling horizon.  Without any sight to be distorted, I stood, and feeling for the handrails, blindly shuffled my way along the board path and out into the sunshine.

When my husband stumbled his way out, we had a good laugh and moved on, but I was disconcerted by the simplicity of the trick which completely disabled my brain and balance.  Maybe that’s why I remembered the incident.

And why it came back this morning.

The world and its evil are spinning and swirling with such speed and intensity my brain and heart have trouble adapting.  Evil seems to come from every direction, and we as a Body are off balance. We stumble, lamenting, making no progress toward the sunshine outside.

God is our railing. He keeps us from falling.  He guides us out of the spinning swirl if we will simply close our eyes, grab on to him, and step out blindly, trusting he has laid a path beneath our feet.

Maybe that’s what it means when the Bible says, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)

Simplicity, confidence, peace, patient endurance – words which explain how a Christian lives in these upheaved times. We have a God who will guide us through.

Grab on!

Recalculating

Have you had this experience?

You’re driving somewhere you’ve never been, but you feel secure because you have a GPS.  That little blue line on the face of your phone, the moving road map that tells you exactly where you are and how to get to your destination, gives you confidence in foreign lands.

Then, suddenly, you deviate.

(Sometimes I do this just because I feel rebellious.  That lady in the GPS is sure bossy!)

Maybe I need gas, or I looked in the mirror to talk with a child in the back and miss my turn – whatever happened, the lady belts out my error – albeit politely – with “proceed to route” or “recalculating.”

And then, the screen flashes, and by some computorial genius, the blue line reappears, rearranged to accommodate my unexpected location.

(Sometimes, I keep that rearranger in my GPS pretty busy.)

On a brilliant summer Saturday morning this year, I drove through the breathtaking mature-corn lined backroads of southern Pennsylvania.  I turned a little prematurely, and immediately, the lady in the GPS informed me of the error.  The screen blinked once, and a new blue line snaked out onto the map.  The new route used a few different roads, but the destination remained the same.

God nudged me.

And I saw how this GPS was a terrific analogy for how He interacts with our free will.

“This is the way to heaven,” He tells us at Baptism.  “We’ll go together.”

Sometimes, just because I feel rebellious, I deviate from the way.  Maybe I make a selfish decision that isn’t for the good of my family.  Maybe I choose to follow the way of the world – for years.

Or decades.

Jesus goes with me, quietly urging me to return to the route, recalculating the path that will lead me to heaven from whatever wrong turn I’ve taken.

Sometimes, with the way we exercise our free wills, he has to rearrange a lot.

But with Christ, there is always an alternate route.  It may be a little longer, maybe over roads that aren’t so smooth, but He’ll walk us over them, all the way home.

That gives me such peace, when I look at my adult children.

They’ve moved beyond the range of my control into the realm where I only have influence.  Even so, I let their decisions create a whirlwind of anxiety in my heart.  Are they abandoning Christ?  Did they even think that problem through?  Is there an end to the variety of ways they can stray from the path He put them on at their Baptisms?

Yes.

Of course.

God’s got it.

He’s with them right now, recalculating the route.

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