Oswald Chambers said:
"Always make a practice of provoking your own mind to think out what it accepts easily. Our position is not ours until we make it ours by suffering. The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance."
What we long for is not encountering someone who knows the answers, but encountering someone who has lived the questions all the way through to the other side. I always find those people to be the least scandalized by reality, the quickest to extend grace and the gentlest in telling the truth. They are also the people who say they consistently feel excluded from the community of believers, who feel misunderstood and alone while the happy, well-fed church goes about its cheery business. "And so Jesus also suffered outside the gate..." Be encouraged, dear wounded-hearts, you are in fellowship with One who made His truth yours by suffering it all the way through in His own flesh. It is a precious community.
Yesterday our youngest son was invited to spend time with a couple of his mentors from church. It was as safe a situation as a parent could ask for, but watching his 12 year old frame walking away from me and that last, happy wave as he climbed into the car, I felt it like a hammer blow: come back, stay here where I can keep you safe... The only thing that kept me from running back to reclaim him is knowing that my fear will cripple him; that clenched fists and suspicion will eat away at innocence and joy until we are all twisted and ruined. When tragedy happens, Christ holds us in our sorrow and then asks us to stand back up and be braver than we could ever be alone...to keep walking out to embrace the world with hope and faith.
An Orthodox friend sent me this incredible prayer (called an Akathist) "offered and dedicated to all who sojourn in the darkness, with the prayer that they will use such praises as this to break through." I have carried it with me everywhere the last couple of days.
The man whose young daughter had just died was in anguish, O Lord, when it seemed that Your coming to save her was too late. But You told him to fear not, but to have faith, and with a simple command You raised the girl from death. Beside himself with joy, the bereaved parent exclaimed, Alleluia!
JESUS, vanquisher of hell!
Like those whose houses are made desolate by death, my own home is filled with mourning, and I look to the dawning of each new day with fear. But keeping my faith in You, I trample down my fear, and open my mouth with defiance to offer these hymns to You, O Life-giving Lord:
JESUS, giver of resurrection!
JESUS, banish my fear of the future!
JESUS, heal the sorrows of my past!
JESUS, redeem my soul in peace from the battle with my foes!
JESUS, conquer my many spiritual enemies!
JESUS, You that put despair to flight!
JESUS, You that fill the heart with hope!
JESUS, light that no darkness can extinguish!
JESUS, joy that no sorrow can quench!
JESUS, glorious liberty of the children of God!
JESUS, endless song of those raised to new life!
JESUS, light to those in darkness, glory to You!
I find great joy and comfort in the unity of the body of Christ; that underneath the many differences of expression and the finer points of theology, there are our shared experiences as sinners, as the redeemed, as children of the same Father. These expressions of praise to Jesus, written for Orthodox believers, would not have been out of place at all in the Pentecostal churches of my childhood. We are closer, brothers and sisters, than we know.
I've never been more grateful for our cozy, little house on the hill than I have been lately. Tucked away in a miniature valley, surrounded by trees and away from neighbors, sometimes it has felt isolating, but now it just feels safe and hidden. It brings such peace to think of a God who looks ahead and knows what will shelter us, knows how to uniquely comfort us.
There are little miracles spread across our paths: like the flowers sent by a friend that got misdelivered to the post office, where they sat enclosed in a box for seven days before we even knew they were waiting. I opened the box rather sadly wondering what I'd missed, and found, to my delight, a vibrant, healthy bouquet inside. Another week later and they are still as fresh and happy as the first day. "Don't worry, you will keep flourishing..." is what they whisper to me as I pass.
towards nurturing health::
I'm strangely thankful for our food sensitivities. I remember how hard it used to be to have self-control around all the Christmas goodies, but now I don't even have to make the effort. No sugar-and- carbohydrate hangovers here. I just need to get outside and exercise, so that's the rather modest goal for this week. (And in case anyone remembers my resolve to become a runner...yeah...let's just talk about something else, k?)
But aside from not allowing myself to sink into a junk-food, couch-potato pit, I think one of the biggest steps toward health is laughter. We've been finding that reruns of America's Funniest Home Videos are strangely cathartic. Sometimes I laugh so hard my sides ache (and you know this has got to be related to something other than "guy gets hit in the crotch with a golf ball" etc. ) and then I go to bed feeling happily unburdened and rather exhausted. Laughter is good medicine.
towards keeping a record::
No rain. It's a strange winter so far. The days are cold and whisps of fog hang in the treetops long into the day and return thick and heavy at night. I can't imagine we'll get snow for Christmas as we wish, but I'm thankful for the dry weather. I don't know if I could take the unrelenting gloominess of the Oregon rains right now. Is it wrong to take this, too, as a gift?
Lastly, thank you for all your comments and notes and prayers. I haven't been able to write back to many of you; sometimes words are more costly than I can spend just now... Thank you for taking the time anyway and for loving in the midst of my silence. You are a blessing and a comfort.