Tag Archives: suffering

Love Wins

lovewins

We are all about happiness in America.  Especially in San Diego.  Yesterday, as I walked through Sea World with my family and some friends, I found myself thinking about the zoo passes that we need to renew and I really can’t wait to try paddleboarding and HEY!  Maybe we can splurge and get those Disneyland annual passes for the girls’ birthdays this year (dreamland).  Being surrounded with endless entertainment options and cool learning experiences can lead to us jumping from one happy thing to the next.  It’s hard not to be happy when you’re watching two killer whales do backflips in tandem!  I mean, come on, how in the world do they get them to do that?!  “Hey, you gigantic killing machine…why don’t you just do a little twirl for me over here and I’ll give you a fish?”  Crazy.

Then, as you’re leaving Sea World you get a text telling you about Boston.  Suddenly, the theme park music fades and you look around, sickened.  The happy little world that was lighting up your baby’s eyes an hour ago goes black, and you’re reminded that evil still exists.  Ugh.

My heart just wrenches thinking about…..all of it.  The lives lost.  The families.  The kids.  The pain.  The terror.  The chaos.  The countless hours of training, dedication, travel, planning, praying and hoping that all of the runners and supporters and organizers went through in preparation for the event, marred by a senseless act.

Sometimes the real world is just too much.  We’re content in happy land and then the bottom drops out.  And it just doesn’t make sense to us.  Why would anyone want to do that?  Why don’t they all just want to be happy too?  Why do people do stuff like this?  It’s too much.

Fresh wounds need their own space.  Newly bruised spirits need compassion, not analysis.  So today let’s just “weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15) and know that though our world is cruel and senseless, we still cherish seeds of hope.

We have hope because we know that love wins. 

 

A Camel for the Road

I was going to take a break but God won’t let me.

I should be packing right now, but no.  I needn’t remind you of the fact that I’m a stay-at-home mother of two and that my sleep is more valuable than the rarest of jewels.

It’s 10:00 pm and I’m drinking coffee so I can stay up and write to you about camels.

Seven years ago, I was working at a little art gallery when a woman came in and struck up a conversation with me about our favorite authors.  I rifled off my list of the well-known greats. She listened patiently and then told me that her favorite was a random guy named John Wright Follette and that I should look up his book, Broken Bread.  Then she walked out.  I looked it up and randomly read Chapter 2.  I don’t know anything else about the guy or even the rest of the book, but I was never the same.

“The Camels are Coming” starts with the story of Rebekah in Genesis 24, when Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac.  The servant takes ten of Abraham’s camels, loaded down with “choice gifts,” and goes to the place Abraham directed him.  When the servant gets to the city, he parks the camels at the well.  He then prays that God would reveal His choice for Isaac by having the woman offer water to the camels.  Before he could finish praying, Rebekah gave him water and offered to water the camels until they were done drinking.  The servant then got her family’s blessing and lavished her with the “choice gifts.” Rebekah hopped on a camel to meet her bridegroom.  She lifted up her eyes, saw Isaac, and got off of the camel.

Here’s the takeaway.

Abraham represents God the Father.  Isaac represents Jesus.  The servant represents the Holy Spirit.  Rebekah is the “called out Christian in training by the Holy Spirit for deeper fellowship with the heavenly bridegroom.”

And lo, the camels.  The camels were the means of transportation that the father used to bring the bride to his son.  What means does God use to refine us and bring us closer to his Son? “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls”  (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Suffering.

Sometimes, you just have to water your camels.

They spit at you, you quench their thirst.  They snort at you, you offer more.  They kick you in the face, you draw another bucket, smiling.  You see them for what they are, accept them in submission to your Father, and take a whippin’ for the sake of grace.  “For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?  But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:19-23).  Your suffering has been divinely appointed.  Remember, it was Abraham who sent the servant out to find the faithful bride.

If you spot a camel, see the test in it.  Get some joy in your heart knowing that you’re about to be laden down with treasures and sent on a journey to your groom.  You just pick up that bucket and fill it in the well of his grace with some living water and water those camels until their humps can’t hold anymore.  Then get on that thing and make it take you to your groom.

We’ve got to stop whining about our camels and see them as divine conspiracies to bring us closer to Jesus.  We tell God we want more of Him and we want to to know Him better, but when the suffering comes we resist it instead of running toward it with our buckets in hand, ready to drown it in His grace.  “Don’t water a camel with a pout in your spirit for that always creates thirst and it takes ever so much longer to finish him up” (Follette).  Such is the life of the Christian.  Opposite of the comfort-seeking world.  “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5).

Step back from the camel.  The illness.  The idiot.  The issue.  Whatever.  The longer we whine about it, the longer the camel is parked at the well.  He has given us enough water for the task.  “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

It’s no sense in pretending you don’t see them.  Your bridegroom awaits.  Run to the well and fetch a pail.  Then look that dromedary square in the eye and fill ‘er up.

“Sing a good song as you let down your bucket and you hear it splash in the well of His grace. In this way his thirst will soon be slaked; then go get the saddle and ride.” –JWF

The Tear Jar

Next Sunday would have been my Great-Grandmother Ethel’s 101st birthday.  She passed away in 2006.  We called her Gaga (now, don’t ask me how, but somehow that spelling is phonetically pronounced Gah-ghee, as in, rhymes with foggy).

Born in Pleasant Plains, Arkansas, she came to California in the 1930’s.  She later became a hairdresser in the Bay Area.  Gaga was a simple woman who lived a difficult life.  She hand-stitched some of the most beautiful quilts I’ve ever laid eyes on and made custom Raggedy Ann-type dollies with “Love ya” (or sometimes, “love ye”) embroidered on the chest for her great-grandkids.  But none of us can forget, or come close to reproducing, Ethel’s pies.  We’ve tried.  Words can’t do justice to describing her meringues, so I won’t even bother.

On my 30th birthday, my mom gave me a gorgeous gift basket filled to the brim with all of my favorites.  You know, the kind of things that only a mom can think of.  She knows her daughter like the back of her hand.  One of the gifts was small and wrapped in tissue paper.  I opened it to find a stunning piece of pottery, a small earthen jar glazed in my favorite color of aqua blue.  I gasped.  Then she told me this story.

When my mom was a little girl and would cry about this or that, Gaga used to quickly grab a mug or cup and hold it up to her cheek, saying, “Can’t catch a tear!”  It never made sense to her as a child, because she always thought, “well, yes you can catch a tear!”  But as she got older, she realized that it was an old-school mommy’s trick to get a kid to stop crying.  Years later, as Gaga lay on her death bed and breathed her last, a small tear fell from Ethel’s steel-blue eyes.  Quickly, my mom and grandmother grabbed a cloth and caught Gaga’s last tear.  “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Ps 116:15).

Months before my birthday, my mom had been at a conference in Fresno by a Christian speaker and potter known as The Pottery Lady.  After the conference some of her pieces were on sale, and mom picked my piece up, knowing how much I would love it.  The name of the piece was The Tear Jar.

I’ve already used it to catch some very, very precious tears.

The Bible says that “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).  We’ve all heard that one a thousand times, but if you read it again and chew on it for a while, it’s really kind of an odd statement.  If you mourn, it means you are blessed.  Now, I don’t know about you, but when I’m in mourning, generally “blessed” isn’t the feeling I’m getting.  But no, the Bible says you are blessed because you will be comforted.  In the New Testament, the Greek word for “blessed,” makarioi, is used in reference to the joy that comes from salvation.  What this means is that Our God is so unimaginably great that to receive His comfort is a miraculous gift of grace to us.  It is unmerited favor.  It is a blessing of His great mercy and love.

In Romans 5, verses 3-5, Paul writes “we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.”  Jesus described the Holy Spirit as the Comforter (John 14:26).

As difficult as it may seem to comprehend, the standard of godliness in mourning and suffering is joy in our salvation and hope from the Spirit.  In your affliction and sadness, know that you are blessed with favor from the Almighty God who has promised to Himself one day wipe away each and every tear we have.  Rest in the beauty of his thumb pressing into your cheek as He smears them away, catching them in His tender, loving hand, comforting you as He whispers, “can’t catch a tear.”

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Love ye.