Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is It Really Just Stuff?

"Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Deuteronomy 5:16

As I walked into the shop at the antique center today, I saw a stranger sitting in my Dad's chair. 

It was a fine, deep blue leather, wing-back recliner.
Wing-back to suit Mom's decor, recliner to suit my Dad's need for comfort in his castle.

That chair had been Dad's spot in the family room for as long as I could remember.
In every family room of every home we'd inhabited.
It was the last in a long line of recliners in our homes. Each of them giving their all in service to one of the hardest working men I knew. Giving comfort after long days, working sometimes three jobs to keep our family afloat.

And now it was being usurped by a stranger who knew nothing of my sweet memories.
Knew nothing of the raw emotion his presence there stirred in me.

The night my Dad died, I remember curling up in that chair, comforted by the smooth, cool leather, the faint smell of my Dad's shampoo and the sense that he was holding me still. 
My Dad's hugs were always the best.
For a few brief moments, his arms wrapped around me, I was his little girl again, no matter how much I had grown up.

And today the little girl in me wanted to scream at that stranger to get up from my Dad's chair. Wanted to shout at him that he didn't belong there.
That he hadn't earned the right to sit in that place.

But the practical adult in me won out.
The practical adult with a furnished home of her own with no place for a chair whose memories were worth far more than the value of the chair itself.

And so went the minutes of my day.

Watching as strange hands unpacked carefully wrapped glassware and framed artwork and family heirlooms passed down from my Great-Grandmother.

Observing as strange eyes evaluated the worth of precious pieces not judging them by the rich memories each held, but by how much money could be earned by offering it up to someone willing to pay the right price.

It has been what seems a lifetime since I saw my Dad's cufflinks.
And my Mother's beautiful Japanese treasures sent to her from my then soldier Father. 

I've never seen them being examined by a strangers hands.

It's just "stuff", a few of my friends said to me today.
Yes, yes it is.

The memories are what count, a few more said.
Yes, that is true.
And on a day like today, I'm glad I have the memories to strengthen my resolve.
To remind my heart that it is still beating.
That I will survive this chapter in the story.

Because today I felt violated.
Robbed of the intimacy of the connection I feel to my parents through the evidence of their life together. The proof of their existence displayed in every photograph that was uncovered.

I am an orphan now.
There is no one living anymore that completely shares my history.

No one but me who can recount the story of my Mom's white oval platter. The platter that held every batch of homemade fudge she lovingly cooked for me and my Dad.
No one is left that remembers how we would giggle together and share the pan scrapings and the fudge covered wooden spoon as my Dad sat in his recliner wondering what was taking us so long in the kitchen.

Yes, it's all just "stuff".
But its the stuff that was part of the life that made the memories that blessedly will never leave me.
Even if I am the only one left who remembers them.

With a Courageous Heart,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Hold On to What You Know

"...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.  
But evil people and impostors will flourish. 
They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.  
But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. 
You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you." 
- 2 Timothy 3:12-14 (NLT)

There are days when I don't feel equipped to be the encourager. 
Days when the weight and heaviness of circumstances around me consume me because of a heart broken out of love for those involved.  

I wonder, how I can give godly advice and share wisdom when I too am in pain because of a situation. Where do I begin? And in some cases, what can I even say when I have zero ability to change anything?

Yesterday was one of those days. 
So, I turned to God's word, looking for something, anything to help me make sense of it all. Something to help them make sense of it all.  
As is his way, I didn't have to look too far. 

Our Pastor had spoken from 2 Timothy 3 on Sunday. While he focused on the final verses of that chapter, my reading drew me up the page to verses 12 - 14.  
The Apostle Paul had written this book to Timothy from prison. 
And not the cushy house prison he'd been held in before. 
No, this was Emperor Nero's prison. Dark. Smelly. Cold. Raw.
Not the place you want to find yourself anytime, much less the end of your life. But that's exactly where Paul was. And he knew he was going to die soon. 

Paul didn't waste his last words on lament and regret. Didn't focus on his situation or circumstances - even though he could have.
He chose instead to pour out his heart and soul in a loving torrent of words to the young man he considered his son in the faith. This final letter of Paul's was full of encouragement, instruction and hope. Hope even when things seemed bleakest. 

And what does he write?

We will suffer persecution.
Evil people will flourish.
They will deceive others.
Check. Check. Check.
My situation had all that and then some.

But it's what Paul says next that grabbed my heart and would not let go.
"But you must remain FAITHFUL to the things you have been taught." 

God whispered, "Hold on to what you know.
You know my words are true. 
I was with Paul in the dungeon and I am with you and your loved ones even now." 

So even though we are persecuted. 
Even though we see evil and false people flourish. 
Even though they attempt to deceive us. 
God is still greater than all of that. 
He is faithful and so I, we, must remain faithful. 

And hold on to what we know. 

With a Courageous Heart, 

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Mystery We Can Trust

"Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things." 
- Ecclesiastes 11:5

I love how no matter where we read in the Bible, it's consistent. 
Both Old and New Testament tell us that God is unknowable, a mystery, and it's impossible for us to understand his ways. 
Romans 11:33 says: "Oh, how great are God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How impossible it is for us to understand his decisions and his ways!" 

Isaiah 55:8 says: "“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine."" 

Honestly, I wouldn't want to serve a God who claimed to be our Creator, our Savior and the King of us all if I could understand him. 
Where is the awe and wonder and mystery in that? 
Makes him kinda ordinary, right? 

So, even though at times it's hard to figure out what he's up to in our lives, we can trust that his word is true. 
We can trust that he knows better than we do what it is that we need. 
And we can trust that he knows where he's taking us. 

He's already written our future and he knows the end of our story. 

That's the God I want to put my trust in, one who will walk with me through the pages of my life as the story unfolds. We may not like the twists and turns at times, the story will cause questions and doubts and fear, but since he knows how it ends, it's all good. 
He's got this, we don't need to worry.
We can trust his word.

"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely." - 1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Obedient, or Overwhelmed?

"If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do." James 1:5-8 (NLT)

We ask God to reveal his will in our lives.
He responds with his "go and do" mission tailored just for us.

But, we don't like it.

Or it's not what we thought it would be.

Or we are afraid.

So, do we choose obedience and trust him?
Or do we waver?
Is our faith in God alone, or is our loyalty divided between God and the world?

If your life seems overwhelming, out of control, then perhaps you are being "blown and tossed by the wind" of disobedience.

His purpose will not be ignored.
His plans will not go unfulfilled.

But you will live in uncertainty and misery until you choose to act on his call.

Hard? Yes.
Truth? Yes.

With a (not so) Courageous Heart,