Friday, May 31, 2019

Grace Runs to Pain


Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Grace runs to pain like healthy blood to a wound. 

Have you been the recipient of grace lately?  It's a swoosh of comfort; a balm of healing; an ointment of relief.

Have you been the giver of grace lately?  It's a nod of affirmation that needs no words; a squeeze of the arm, a spark of warmth in the eyes.

Genuine.

Caring.

Grace.

Some of my work includes greeting the public. We are Human Services, so there's a steady of stream of humans in need of services we may offer, including family help, parenting classes, addiction referrals, mental health providers and housing.

As a Christian I am called to serve others with the love of Christ.

As a Christian in a government-run organization, I am restricted in the earthbound realm.  Even so, I am wholly free to share His grace in surprisingly easy ways: by showing kindness on the phone, by listening carefully to the client who is confused and distraught, by spilling a bit of laughter into a tense moment.

Grace is tangible; you can feel it rush to the place of pain.

Maybe you've heard the story of the small boy who learned that his neighbor was grieving the loss of his wife.  The boy asked his mom if he could go next-door and see the man.

When he returned home, the boy's mom asked what he said to comfort the sad neighbor.

"Nothing," he replied. "I just sat in his lap and helped him cry."

Grace is light and airy, but oh! It is profoundly powerful, rippling into a needy world.
Infusing it with hope.

Last year, in preparation to lead a women's conference, I wrote a poetic essay about the activity of grace.  I hope you like it; I hope you recognize the winsome contrast of grace to the stuff we often experience in the day-to-day.

The world is a fist.
Grace is an open hand.

The world loves a snappy comeback.
Grace loves a kind word.

The world runs from pain.
Grace runs toward the hurt.

The world thunders, "Me first!"
Grace whispers, "You first.

The world upends.
Grace mends.

The world abandons.
Grace abides.

The world quits.
Grace perseveres.

The world shrugs.
Grace hugs.

The world mocks.
Grace grieves.

Grace re-frames everything.

In the workplace, in church, at home -- wherever your day takes you, Grace is a currency we can all exchange with good will and generosity.  We can trust the quiet, capable, dynamic activity of grace to heal and heighten and bolster up.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen.  Philippians 4:23


This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons,.



Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Hay Bales and Recovered Treasure



"O God my rock." I cry. "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?" Their taunts break my bones. They scoff, "Where is this God of yours?" Psalm 42:9-10


It started as a small sliver of aggravation and grew into an impossible mass of resentment: my marriage was in a fragile place and I was painfully aware of my part in it.

Dial the clock back to 2004 – the year my husband decided it’d be a good idea to move away from our beloved Colorado to the hills of Pennsylvania.

“We’ll have a farm property,” he said. 

“We’ll give our daughters the rich heritage of taking care of animals and driving a jalopy. They can chase fireflies and row across the pond. We’ll camp out and have bonfires and do all the things we got to enjoy as kids.”

He was thrilled at the prospect; as for me and the girls … not so much.

A wise woman at my Colorado church counseled me: “Kathy, you need to follow your husband. Even if he’s making a mistake. Roger is the spiritual leader of your family and it’s always best to honor that commitment. Don’t let this drive a wedge in your marriage.”

I’ll always remember Monita’s gentle caution, her loving words to me – such a tender reminder in a counter-culture that rejects the notion of wives accepting the leadership of their husbands.

And yet.

We made the 15-hundred mile trek. One car and a moving truck, bursting at the seams with all our worldly goods. We were pioneers, but in my mind we were heading in the wrong direction -- backwards, to a life I'd left in my past. 

We swapped our newer home in the suburbs of Littleton for a 100-year-old farm house on the top of a hill.

In the middle of nowhere.

This wasn’t my dream; it was his.

At first, I managed a fake bravado, encouraging our daughters to make new friends and dream new dreams. I even came alongside my 6-foot-2 gregarious husband to host a yearly potluck in the orchard, a tradition that would become a much-anticipated event for the neighbors and friends on our rural hill in the woods.

Over time, my fa├žade gave way to a strange, quiet rage.

I know he felt it.

Eventually, we formed a brittle alliance that held together just enough to get by.

It wasn’t healthy. It wasn’t godly. There was little joy in our awkward dance of just-getting-along.

It was a God appointment that I went to lunch one day with a friend, Dorothy, who handed me a smooth stone that fitted right in the palm of my hand. 

Etched on that stone was one word: Forgive.

That began to nag at me.

Over the next year, I would receive gentle nudges from Dixie, a woman at our Pennsylvania church: “You need to forgive your husband,” she’d say. It was never delivered as a reprimand or a judgement. Looking back, I know to my core it was her simple obedient act of delivering a message that lay heavy on her heart.

Forgive.

Oh! But I was just not willing to release my right to be upset! Digging my heels in, I did not move toward Forgiveness.

Finally, and maybe after a dozen or so gentle nudges, Dixie sought me out after the church service one Sunday morning.  There was a sense of urgency in her voice. 

“Kathy, have you found a way to talk to Roger? You need to forgive him.”

A few days later, on an ordinary day, I asked my handsome German fellow to sit with me in the living room. Haltingly, without fanfare or clever words, I explained how mad I’d been and how I no longer wanted to be held in the grip of fury.

I spilled it all. I held back nothing.

The release of all that bottled up emotion was a huge relief.

He shared, too, and we moved toward each other with a gift I can only describe as unfathomable Grace.

As there was work to be done, we headed to the hay fields. We’d had a soggy summer and much of the baled hay was on the edge of mold; some of it could only be salvaged for mulch.

I drove the tractor and Roger pulled the wet bales up onto the wagon. I remember the sun was setting and it was a spectacle of reds, blues, purples and pinks.

We drove to a neighbor’s barn where the hay would be stored and dried. 

With a decisive shudder that huge old barn door was closed on those smelly hay bales.

That was a defining moment for me, for both of us: The creaking and the closing of that creaky barn door symbolized the end of our silence. 

It ushered in the beginning of a new alliance as husband and wife.

The putting up of that old hay was a visual for the putting away of all the lost opportunities that had pushed us apart. 

We moved forward as a team and the peace that whispered around my shoulders was Supernatural.

It was bliss.

Three months later, Roger died suddenly and unexpectedly from a massive heart attack.

We couldn’t have possibly known.

We never do.

Months later, I found that stone with the little word, “forgive” in my jewelry box.

How I miss him! The ache is ever present, and so is the gratitude.

How grateful I am God got through to my unyielding, stubborn spirit.

He cracked my heart wide open with faithful, persistent voices who spoke into my life.  The light flooded in, the forgiveness flowed and swirled and flung a balm of healing over our family.

Going forward as a widow, it has been a challenging journey. Not what I’d choose.

But, thanks be to God we were able to clear our grievances and embrace life together – no matter how fleeting it would prove.

Like the Psalmist, I end my lament with a declaration of gratitude: 

"Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again - my Savior and my God!" - Psalm 42:11


I invite you to look for my coffee table books, the Breath of Joy! series.  So excited to announce the newly-launched volume,  Breath of Joy! Singing Spring.

This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Border Bullies and How to Dream Anyway


Proverbs 4:25-27
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 
 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. 
 Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.

Have you stood at the brink of Possibility, only to have someone list all the reasons NOT to venture out? 

This, dear reader, is your Border Bully; your living-safe-within-the-boundaries-non-risk-taker-adventure-squashing border bully. 

If you're particularly challenged, there may be more than one.

Seriously.  It's maddening.

For instance, I've got Retirement on my radar -- these days I find myself leaning into the unknown, curiously peering into the future which holds, I'm quite sure, many adventures. This anticipation, this giddy breath of rare air, gives me a ripple of joy.  

The very notion of turning my writing into a full time passion? It's heady stuff.  The new opportunities for travel, for ministry, for investing deeply in people and dreaming new dreams?  I feel light and airy just thinking of it.

But here they come: the well-meaning, ever-so-careful, people in my life. Otherwise known as ... the border bullies. These are the ones who stand at the finish line with you, begging you not to break the ribbon -- pulling you back from victory, keeping you from getting the prize.

"You should wait until you're 66 to get the full benefits."

"Are you sure you'll have enough to fund your dreams?"

"You'll have to lower your expectations."

"How on earth will you manage the medical expenses?"

And on it goes.  Propelled by worry, fueled by fear, these voices nip at my ears, reminding me of the economy, the uncertainty, the risks.

These are the times when I think of a wise friend's words. She said, When it comes to finances, I have to remember my job is not my Provider; God is."

Yes, it's important to plan. As believers we are called to be good stewards of the resources we are blessed enough to enjoy. It's smart to save and avoid careless purchases. 

It's also helpful to listen to people's advice.

But here's the thing. If I hang back in order to gain approval from people, I'm making my world smaller. 

Bruce Wilkinson, who coined the term, "border bullies", says it like this: "If you want your dream more than you have to have people's affirmation, that's how you break through your border bullies".

This is what I know: I serve a God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10-11) His resources are rich and unfathomable. He will take care of me. As a widow, I've learned this promise, time and again.

You may be looking eagerly into a new career. Perhaps you're building a relationship. Maybe you're exploring the creative side of you who longs to paint or dance or write a poem.

Watch out for those border bullies. 

Stay the course. Fix your gaze directly before you, and go forward with every confidence that God placed that vision in your heart, and He goes before you.  

Yes, there will be naysayers. I say, stand your ground. Show some grace. Smile. Prayerfully and with joy, follow your heart. 

I invite you to look for my books, Breath of Joy! Simply Summer and Breath of Joy! Ah, Autumn, and the newly-launched Breath of Joy! Singing Spring.

This blog supports www.booksforbondinghearts.com/shop, timely gifts for all seasons.