when He is risen, but death still hurts.

Last year on Easter, I went to a sunrise service, had breakfast with friends, and then went to pick up my dad from the airport. We shared Easter dinner together with my aunt’s side of the family, and then I got to spend about a week with my dad before he flew back to Colorado. That was the last time I got to see him.

Last year, I had Easter dinner with my dad. This year, he is not here. How do I celebrate that death has no power, no sting, when its power overwhelms me and its sting still hurts?

IMG_0860

Christ’s tomb is empty, but my dad’s urn is still full. What does it mean?
“Today you will be with me in paradise,” Christ said to the thief who hung dying beside him. Not, “In the last days,” but “Today.” What does it mean?

“What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.” 1 Corinthians 15:36. NIV. Or, “Every time you plant seed, you sow something that does not come to life [germinating, springing up, growing] unless it dies first.” -AMP.

On the night before He hung on the cross, Jesus told His disciples, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”

Where is that joy? Why does it feel like death has swallowed it up — when in reality, death is the one that is swallowed up, destroyed, rendered powerless?

IMG_0882

The very day before my dad died, before I even knew it was coming, I went to church and listened to a sermon on Nehemiah 8. I wrote verse 10 in my journal: “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” I continued writing, “What does that mean, God? Teach us, lead us. The joy of the LORD is your strength.”

I am looking for the joy of the LORD today. I found Him in the stillness of the early morning hours, in the dark sky, in the foggy mists, in the creeping dawn. I found joy at first light, as the world turned golden orange and the water sang.

IMG_0923

Then the day came on, the sun rose rapidly in the sky, the stillness turned to busyness, and the cool mists burned away in the stifling heat… And now it is dusk. The sun has gone down again, and I am still not any closer to understanding Christ, His death, His sacrifice; His resurrection, His victory. I am drawn to Him, to the dawn. I need His hope, but I don’t understand it.

What does Resurrection mean today? For me? For the orphan? For the widow?

It is easy to sing of Christ’s victory, “He rose and conquered the grave, He conquered the grave.” It’s easy, when death seems far away, when you haven’t yet felt its sting, or when that sting has faded to a dull memory. Today, though, it hurts. Today, I sing, “He conquered the grave” not with a shout of triumph, but with a cry of desperation. It has to be true. He has to be risen. Death is defeated, it has to be, or what else can I do?

This sorrow will not pass, but perhaps joy can mingle with it… perhaps “pain and delight flow together and tears are the very wine of blessedness.” I am looking for the eucastastrophe.

IMG_0899

Advertisements

Jumbled thoughts on the new year

So what I wrote in my last post about choosing to take joy is very much easier to write about than to do. It seems that every time I proclaim that I will take joy, darkness rushes in to try to steal that joy away. I have decided that I have to change the notion to: “I will take joy — and I will not let it be stolen from me. No one can take away my joy because my joy does not come from within me, it comes from the Father who holds me, and no one can snatch me out of my Father’s hand.”

Still, easier said than done, but I have to start by saying it or I will never do it.

IMG_0660

I’ve been thinking a lot about church recently, mostly because it seems impossible for me to find one. For the past few months, I’ve been working most Sunday mornings, and even when I do rarely get the morning off, it’s still difficult to get to a church because of sudden illness or necessary babysitting. When I do get the chance to go, community is hard to find, and it doesn’t come about as instantly as I’d want it to. (And why, oh why, is it so hard to find people my own age in church in middle America?) I miss my old communities. I miss how easy it was to form friendships at Crossroads in Scotland. I miss how quickly the people of Metanoia in Maryland embraced me.

You’d think that if I needed church and Christian community at any particular time in my life, it’d be now…right? Now that I’m in a new place, orphaned, directionless… But God doesn’t seem to be bringing me that community as quickly as He has in the past.  And I don’t understand it.

I am grateful, however, that I still feel Him so close, that I still worship Him and learn from Him, even if it’s not in the midst of a congregation. I am lonely, and sometimes I ache for a community like this, but I can still sing with the earth. I don’t know exactly what He’s up to right now, but He hasn’t left me, and that is good.

IMG_0640

On the first day of 2014, I glanced back through my journal and found a verse I had written down back in July. The verse was Isaiah 51:3, and I wrote about it on my Facebook status that day:

“The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; He will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.” -Reading Isaiah 51:3 at the start of this new year, when the passage of time seems depressing and daunting rather than “happy,” but my God is in the business of turning wastelands into gardens.

Yes, amen. Wastelands into gardens. But wasn’t that the same tune I was singing a year ago? Two, three years ago? A way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. Is this the tune I am to sing all my life? Am I to move from one wasteland to the next, following the Way, sipping from the streams that miraculously burst through the ground at just the moment when I feel I can’t go on any longer without a drink? If that is to be my journey, at least I will not be making it alone.

IMG_0659

The LORD will comfort His people, He will look with compassion on His daughter, and He has comforted me. He has made streams appear in the desert before, and He has made a way in the chaos and the wasteland, so I will trust Him to do so again. And again, and again, for all my days.

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of the God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
for ever and ever.
-Psalm 52:8

Autumn.

I don’t have many words today, but I have this:

IMG_0265

I’m starting to love aspen trees. The bark, ash grey with scars of black, leading up to flimsy branches with beautiful crisp leaves bright and yellow in the autumn sun… Magnificent.

There’s just something that speaks to me about the aspens. It speaks of hope, wonder, beauty amid turmoil.

IMG_0274

It speaks of autumn too: that even death can be beautiful, that what seems like loss can be a renewal.

IMG_0238

I wrote a lot about spring this year, when the world felt full of promise and excitement.
I did not know the gloom and pain that summer would bring.
I did not know that fall would lead me to contemplate this “season of dying” in more than just metaphorical terms. I did not know I would get to see the aspens.

And yet the hope I saw in spring, I see still in fall. Maybe it’s a fool’s hope, but it’s hope nonetheless. That hope says He has made everything beautiful in its time, and that death is just a part of this thing we call life– and He has redeemed it. The aspen tree is strong and beautiful, and it thrives even amidst its scarred and seemingly burned bark. The fire that kills it makes it grow stronger the next time. Its leaves are tough yet smooth, invoking wonder in both the spring and the fall.

Autumn is golden.

Cherished and Enough.

IMG_7624“But if the gospel of Jesus is relational; that is, if our brokenness will be fixed, not by our understanding of theology, but by God telling us who we are, then this would require a kind of intimacy of which only heaven knows. Imagine, a Being with a mind as great as God’s, with feet like trees and a voice like rushing wind, telling you that you are His cherished creation.”

–Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What (emphasis mine)

“To find your identity within the will of Tze-Yo-Tzuh [He who is] …that is the highest of all freedoms.”

–Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese

“If man was wired so that something outside himself told him who he was, and if God’s presence [in the Garden] was giving him a feeling of fulfillment, then when that relationship was broken [the Fall], man would be pining for other people to tell him he was good, right, okay with with world, and eternally secure.”

–Donald Miller, Searching for God Knows What

Oh dear one, listen to that voice like rushing wind that thunders like the mighty waters, yet is also quiet, and still, and whispering…

“You are My beloved child. That is enough.”

IMG_2716

May

It’s been a dark winter.
It was a long and lonely fall.

DPP_0002

Yesterday, the only sunny morning of the week, I took a walk outside.
I breathed in the beauty of the Creator,
And I felt refreshed.
There was a sense of something bursting forth…
Something I know not what, yet.

DPP_0004

This is the season of the poets:
Something within our bones swells with joy
When we experience this renewal of the land
When the flowers bloom and the harsh ground turns green again.
Its a rush to see the luscious forrest once more, no longer the barren wasteland.

We say, ‘Yes, all can be well again–
After winter must come spring, it must.’
We need this grace, we cherish it.
As much as we need the sun to come up each day
and the rain to fall on the sinners and the saints.

DPP_0011

Rain, what beauty, what grace!
What transformation!
The showers, the storms, the drenching,
The power that causes the blossoms–
We need that grace too.

Drink deep, little earth, little heart,
And bloom, bloom, blossom little daughter.

The Father of Heavenly Lights

So, I took a ridiculous amount of photographs on the Fourth of July… Oh my goodness, I had so much fun photographing fireworks! I’ve been wanting to show them off, but I haven’t decided on the right way to do so yet…
And then I got the idea for a post in which a firework photo might be somewhat appropriate… It’s a stretch, but here we go :)

The cd burner on my laptop stopped working right about the time the cd player in my car started to work again… Which means I’ve been listening to a bunch of old cds, since I can’t make any new ones. Well, on one such cd-trip down memory lane, I rediscovered my love for the song “Green” by Brendan James. The first two lines of this song get me every time:

Zeppelin never left her, never died or second guessed her, painted on her body
The stars would never hurt her, never lie, never desert her, painted on her body

I don’t know if I can wholly explain why these lyrics get to me, but I just think it’s the idea that this girl he’s singing about was craving something she could count on… She wanted a constant, she wanted hope that wouldn’t desert her, and she found that in the stars and in music. She could always count on the stars to be in the sky every night, shining down on her. She could always count on music to be there to lift her up, to never judge or abandon her…

It’s so beautiful, and yet so sad at the same time.

But in a world of constant change, loss, pain and turmoil, stars can give us a glimpse of the stability we long for, and music offers us the power to hold on, to know that we are not alone… But better still is the Creator of such examples, for He is our true source of security.

He is the Father of Heavenly Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. (James 1:17)

So I rewrite these lyrics, because heavenly music draws us to the One our souls truly long for. One day the stars will fail, but His love and His word stand forever:

God never left her, though He died to resurrect her…
Her God would never hurt her, never lie, never desert her,

Painted on her body — Still another will write on his hand, “The Lord’s.” (Isaiah 44:5)

Certain of what we do not see

In my last post, I commented on the beauty of the sun and encouraged you to enjoy the sun that day. I wrote the post in the middle of the night and the next morning (at least in my neck of the woods), it was cloudy and rainy. There wasn’t very much sun that day, or today either for that matter. And yet I encouraged you to enjoy the sun. …Did you still do it?

The sun is still there, you know, even if we can’t see it.

Right now, I’m writing a paper about Robert Frost’s “Storm Fear,” a poem about the storms of our lives that wall us in and beat upon our windows and cause us to despair. But, you know, the sun is still present, even though hidden behind storm clouds.

It’s still there, providing its energy that gives life. It’s fixed in space, it hasn’t gone anywhere, nor has the earth moved farther away from it. It’s just that sometimes we can’t see the sun as well as we’d like to. But it’s still there.

A lot like God, huh?

May you enjoy the glory of the sun today, even if it’s not obvious. May you bask in the steady pretense of the Son, even through the storm.

Today is the brightest, the brightest that I’ve ever known…


I have a thing for sun pictures…

In rays of golden light were the words you spoke
A witness in the sky was the promised hope
You’ll fly shining, you’ll fly shining
When the day breathed last in the cloudburst sky
I saw you like the sun in the shadows,
Shining, shining…

Today is the brightest, the brightest that I’ve ever known
I followed, I followed the sun all the way home.

You are resplendent with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game. – Psalm 76:4

May you enjoy the sun today.

The lyrics above are from an amazing band called Courrier. You should check them out: http://www.courriermusic.com/. And as always, you can click the photograph above to see it in a better size. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to format things on here… Thanks for stopping by <3

No greater love have I ever known

Why do You wanna be all listening to me?

Why do You spread your arms and tell me I’m free?

Why do You wanna be in my life?

Grace_printJPEG

Cuz I’m addicted, I’m needy, I’m lost

Without You.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

chris_retouchedprintop

Spread wide, in the arms of Christ

Is the love that covers sin

No great love have I ever known,

You considered me Your friend,

Capture my heart again.