Comfort

Somehow comfort seems so inadequate when offered in human terms.

©podpad freedigitalphotos.net

©podpad freedigitalphotos.net

As I wrote in my prayer journal Thursday morning and lifted friends in prayer, the number of people hurting from grief began to overwhelm me.

One mourns the death of her son six years ago from depression and suicide; one mourns the death several months ago of an adult daughter from a car accident; another mourns the death just a month ago of a preteen daughter from cancer; yet another is freshly mourning the death of the premature birth of his infant son just a week ago, alive for only 58 minutes.

I do not pretend to know God’s purpose in any of this. I know I cannot comfort these friends with words or Scripture or the assurance that God stands beside them and weeps with them even now.

Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! He is the Father who is compassionate and the God who gives comfort. He comforts us whenever we suffer. That is why whenever other people suffer, we are able to comfort them by using the same comfort we have received from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

All I know for certain is that God has comforted me in times of deep grief. I chose not to ask the “why” question. Somehow, I knew I would not receive an answer. I simply continued to pray. I handed over my grief and anger and disappointment. I lifted my fists and my tears and my exhaustion. I allowed my Father to hold me and rock me and comfort me. I let Him deal with the emotion and the doubt because I trusted He was powerful enough to handle it all when I wasn’t.

Eventually, the heart-wrenching soul-quivering, coldness began to fill again with flowing, living water. I allowed it to seep in as much as I could swallow at a time. And before I realized it, I was immersed again. I had enough for me. I had enough to give away.

My heart aches for the hurt and pain you feel. I wish so much for you to feel real peace and joy again. In the meantime, the in between time, the desert time, I pray you are grateful for the manna.

To these sweet friends – Dale, Tom & Carolyn, Mark & Robin, Jason & Karryn – and to anyone else feeling grief stricken, and because my comfort is not enough, I offer comfort from Jesus. For now.

As Jesus told his disciples, “You will weep and mourn over me…you have grief now; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice and no one will take your joy away from you.” (John 16:22)

Jesus First, Issues Second

©marcolm freedigitalphotos.net

©marcolm freedigitalphotos.net

As American presidential candidates enter the arena, it’s time for my quadrennial series of posts about our thoughts, words and behavior as Christians around this event. I always seem to approach this with a heavy heart. I worry my words will be ignored by those whose conviction is more important than relationship. Not with me, but with Jesus.

 

 

So, I begin this first post with a prayer for unity – one Jesus himself prayed.

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. (John 17:20-23)

As we become more enamored with our thoughts and decisions, the more we become convinced of the way it ought to be. We’re so convinced we become converted to our reasons to win – our agendas to advance – our rules to follow – the ones we massage and manipulate and put in Jesus’ mouth.

29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Matthew 19:29-30)

How many of us in the Western World have decided it is our right – no, our God-given destiny – to enter or participate in politics in a way that allows us to speak with authority about “issues.” How many of us have decided “our side” needs to win elections and carry out God’s will?

It’s not about what we DO for Jesus. It’s about our relationship with Him. It is clear Jesus did not consider power, wealth, authority and status important. When Salome, the mother of James and John, (who Jesus nicknamed the sons of thunder) begged Jesus to give her sons special status, he responded in a way that made it unequivocal to Salome and to all the disciples what he thought about such things (emphasis mine):

25 Jesus called the apostles and said, “You know that the rulers of nations have absolute power over people and their officials have absolute authority over people. 26 But that’s not the way it’s going to be among you. Whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant. 27 Whoever wants to be most important among you will be your slave. 28 It’s the same way with the Son of Man. He didn’t come so that others could serve him. He came to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.” (Matthew 20:25-28)

How many of us are sons and daughters of thunder when it comes to our own righteousness? How many of us are immovably on one side of the abortion / LGBT / prayer in schools / immigration / second amendment issues? Why do these have to be arguments or litmus tests?

Why do we allow The Enemy to throw us into disunion over these questions?

How many give The Enemy a foothold by ranting on Facebook, “liking” a negative comment, telling or passing along a political joke, or refusing or forgetting to pray for those in office?

How many vote for rulers rather than advocates? Arrogant leaders rather than humble servants? Divisive politicians rather than representatives who work for unity?

If you think Jesus’ words are different than the Father’s or weaker than God’s, think again:

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God. God’s only Son, the one who is closest to the Father’s heart, has made him known.

John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.”

John 14:9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

Whatever else is going on, we must remember to walk with Jesus.We must trust his words, not words we wish he had said. If we show contempt, sarcasm or bitterness; if we resort to nastiness, hostility and hatefulness, all we do is place stumbling blocks in front of those who may have been walking toward Jesus. We hide our light in obscurity. We contaminate our salt.

 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

Resurrection

empty-tomb

I hear a noise, teeth clench, abrasive sound.

Light disappears, eyes wide, it’s dark as night.

I stretch and sit, spit blood, at once I’m crowned.

My hands I lift; the room is filled with light.

 

The tears of joy, they stream, my smile is wide.

“Oh, Abba, but,” I stop. I laugh out loud.

“They do not know,” I say, “death we defied.”

I wipe my face; it’s clean. I fold the shroud.

 

My Son, my Heart, dawn’s near, Your glory’s bared.

My will through You is done, restored each one.

Our love and grace, for them, will not be spared.

Because of You, they’re free, each daughter, son.

 

Faith moved the rock; outside, I greet the day.

I give you peace, I live, I AM The Way.

Prayer for Easter

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:16-19

May you have a blessed Easter weekend.

Love Conquers Ignorance

Oh, Mr. Graham,

We have not come far from the attitude of the eight religious leaders who wrote to Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. while he was incarcerated in a Birmingham, Alabama jail in 1963.

As a Christian leader, I am ashamed for you. You have a large forum into which you speak and write. You submitted your take publicly on your Facebook page on why you perceive so many black men have died recently at the hands of police officers: “Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority,” and “It’s as simple as that,” and, “Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you.” You received thousands of “likes” for these comments. You promoted anger and hate.

At the very least, you promoted ignorance. At the very least, you did not promote love.

I did not read any desire to perceive or understand the fear and profiling and aggressive, biased treatment on one side, and the fear and anger and gut-wrenching distrust on the other side.

“But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the [situation]. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes.” Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

This is not about African Americans failing to parent or young black men failing to submit, or a black president failing to discipline “his people.” This is about a system that has been broken for decades.

You’ve come a long way from your father, who preached a true gospel of love; who had the love and respect of many Presidents, and many Christians of all ethnicities, whether they voted Republican, Democrat.

Your rant on Facebook was nothing more than an angry white male slandering a group of non-white people. And that, Mr. Graham, is not what a Christian does. We are not to speak and act as the world does.

We are to be impartial. We are to love our neighbor. We are to put our agenda and our will aside in order to promote God’s will. The day you posted your rant, you stepped away from God. I invite to step back toward Him again. Offer a public apology.

If you want to see Franklin Graham’s rant, go to: http://on.fb.me/1F9wG0u

If you want to read Sojourner’s Christian response to Franklin Graham, to go:

http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/03/19/open-letter-franklin-graham

“Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world?” Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail

Fuchsia

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox

I’m certain fuchsia’s godly made

And if of this you need persuade

Direct your eyes toward setting sun

A desert moon, the clouds at dawn; warm hues and shades

 

The tiny pomegranate seed

There’s bougainvillea, grows with speed

Oh, don’t forget the peony

Then Phalaenopsis and sweet pea; ah, thistle weed

 

The Painted Desert tells the tale

Of God’s delight in color scale

He fills our senses night and day

This feast, a visual bouquet; along life’s trail

 

fucsia make-up

We humans long to imitate

This value God spoke to create

In sassy heels and boldest ties

In lipstick, eye shade to disguise; appear ornate

 

 

The truth is, no one can outshine

What’s generated from The Vine

No matter pattern, shape or hue

God’s eyes of love this brilliance view; through which we shine

©susanirenefox

©susanirenefox