Living with the knowledge of Evil

I read an article the other day that began with the question, “Do you ever wonder if evil exists in the world?”.  The story that followed clearly answered the question. I have been troubled by the facts of the story since…it is in the most simplistic terms, one of the worst cases of child abuse I’ve read. I won’t repost it because, honestly, it is too disturbing and I don’t want to further their fame.

A few hours after reading that, our house was filled with roses and streamers and brightly decorated presents and cupcakes. Family came over and we joined together to celebrate a little girl.

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The striking contrast of the celebration of our little girl and the intentional destruction of another little girl left an ache deep within. 

There is evil in this world. The image that we have been given, by inspiration, of a roaraing lion seeking whom he could devour…we need to not let that fade into literary sweetness.

There is a destroying, active evil around us. It should terrify and enrage us.

As I have ‘listened’ to the conversations on FaceBook surrounding gay marriage and abortion and other issues, I hear that same evil stirring the conversation.  No…I am not saying what you think.

 

I am saying that I hear in our hatred and in our rejoicing in the failures of others that evil which seeks to destroy.

 

I wonder if our easy dismissal of others causes such a deep ache in the heart of God as the story of the intentional destruction of a wee innocent little baby did to my heart. Sometimes we need things to be more obvious before we get it…but God knows the way evil seeks to destroy in a variety of ways.  I can be sickened by the more obvious ways, and yet give in to the subtle hatred and the subtle evil around me.

 

There is evil in our world, and I do not like to talk about it. I talk more about wonder and about creation and about joy and about grace. Evil makes me aware that I am vulnerable and my children are vulnerable and that I am, frankly, incapable of stopping the evil completely. I can put bars on my doors and I can be vigilant and I can protect…but the evil that seeks to destroy us knows our weaknesses and destroys from within as well as from without.

 

Here’s the thing. I know that this evil will be dealt with. I know that God has dealt with sin, with the evil within me…I know that He has made a way to set me free from the hold of destruction on my life…and I know that ultimately He will deal with the evil that seeks to destroy. That is not fairy tale and it is not wishful thinking.

 

And so, we celebrate and we love and we do not cower.

 

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We delight.

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We step outside into the sunlight fully aware that there is a lion that seeks to destroy us…and yet, we love more tenderly and we are aware that the innocence and delight of our children holds a tinge of pain because that vulnerability is there.

 

Looking at Madeleine these last few days all I could think was of the little baby who was tormented and destroyed. It made me want to love Madeleine well  somehow to honor that other little one. Somehow to say that as much as evil may seek to destroy we will seek to build and to love and to embrace and to celebrate. We do so in the strength of the One who will ultimately deal with the evil.

 

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Rejoicing with those who Rejoice!

I have seen a few posts floating around FaceBook making fun of Pinterest, or of those who are crafty and who go over the top in their homes. I have to admit that I have chuckled at a few, and said amen. 

I’ve even seen a few blog posts talking about not measuring yourself by all the things on Facebook and on Pinterest.

In the midst of weeding this morning…physically weeding, the tiny flower bed that I have…the one that has been neglected and therefore the weeding task is rather immense…in the midst of this weeding I realized something.

I have friends who excel in bringing beauty into their lives, and the lives of those around them.  Excel at this. They make it look easy, and they delight in bringing beauty to their world.  I am sure there are those out there who do these things to impress or to to prove themselves, but the folks I am thinking of desire to bring beauty and wonder into the world in order to bless.

They make their world beautiful to bring healing and blessing to those who live in the midst of this broken world with them. They create little spaces of sanctuary, and they do so with care and delight.

They may even talk about it sometimes, or they may post a picture.

They don’t do this to make others feel less-than…they do it to celebrate the beauty around us.

Sometimes when I see the beautiful things they create I look around at my house, which likely has a few messes strewn around, and I feel a bit deflated. This morning our kitchen table has three plastic horses staring at me, a pair of pink crocs, a couple bean bags, an ipod, a grocery bag with some sugar…not exactly a beauty inspiring tableau. Want to see it?

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Not terrible, but not exactly beautiful. I looked at pictures this morning of one friend’s house where she had hung yarn on the wall…and it looked delightful. She had thought something up, made it work, and she delighted in celebrating this little moment of beauty.

What would happen if I posted on her wall that her image made me feel less. Her moment of inspiration made me feel judged and hurt and depressed.

Why is it that our flesh delights in bringing others down? Instead of celebrating and enjoying the success of others, the moments of their delight, our flesh takes those moments as judgments on our short comings. I do this more often than I would like. I might not say it out loud, but I will chuckle at the sarcastic post that jabs at those who are more “crafty”.

This attitude comes to play in other areas as well. When a parent rejoices in their child’s success in sports or academics or music or drama…sometimes the result is jealousy rather than rejoicing.

How about homeschool? I have friends who feel that they are being judged for not homeschooling because I am excited about how our kids are flourishing in this adventure.

Or church? The church down the street has more creative folks, or their VBS is bigger and brighter, or their worship team is more polished….that can be our reaction instead of simply celebrating with the successes and endeavors of our brothers and sisters.

Yep, I’m rambling a bit…I apologize. Blame it on working in the flower garden, that seems to lead to rambling thoughts.

Here is the point:  The successes of another, the abilities and talents and choices of another, do not minimize or denegrate my successes and choices.

I don’t have to feel less-than because someone else does something well.

I love looking around on Pinterest, but I love even more seeing friends I actually know flourish in bringing beauty and wonder and creativity into our world. My house may be a mess at the moment, but it will be scrubbed and polished and made beautiful to celebrate Madeleine’s birthday tomorrow night. I’ll probably steal a few ideas from friends in how to bring that beauty to life.

Our flesh wants to take other’s successes as judgment…our Spirit wants to rejoice and encourage and celebrate with our friends as they flourish in their giftings. It may sound silly in the context of Pinterest, but in the context of life learning to rejoice in others is a discipline that breathes life into our midst.  Off to “like” some pages and encourage some friends to keep posting their beautiful flowers and meals and words!!

Plans to do….something great.

The other night we were hanging out at the inline hockey rinks. Zachary had requested his birthday party simply be hanging out with his hockey buddies and playing hockey. After a weekend of…playing hockey. The kids loved it, though, and we played until it got dark. Then we pulled out glow sticks and attached them to the kids helmets and sticks, and we used glow-in-the-dark balls instead of pucks. I parked the truck next to the rink and would “charge” one of the balls with the headlights while the kids used the other one.

One of the parents standing with us mentioned that this would be one of the memories of the kids of their summer. Mom standing there charging up glow-in-the-dark balls while the kids played as long as possible. They didn’t even want the chocolate cake…they just wanted to play.

The parent’s comment caught me, though. I’ve been thinking ever since:

“What will the kids remember?”

Will it stand out in their minds that when they came downstairs I was distracted and on the computer; focused on the lives of others while they waited for my attention? I hope not. I’ve been more present to them and more intentional this summer about doing things. Enjoying them and enjoying the wonder that is summer as a kid.

Things like:

Catching Lightning Bugs (love living in the south)

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Playing with Baking Soda, Vinegar and Food Coloring

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Snowcones!

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Water Balloon fights

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Baby Pools!

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Dinners with an abundance of color and flavor

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What will they remember?

Staying up late, sleeping in, laughing and giggling.

Road trips to New Mexico.

Running outside and the feel of grass on bare feet.

Snow cones and swimming pools.

They will remember I was there and Steve was there.

They will not remember how clean the house was or if the laundry was done on time. They will not remember if the bed was made.

Lord, help me remember that those things need to be done without taking over. Help me remember to just enjoy these days.

Help me remember that these little souls are eager for affection and attention. Help me to remember that their wonder only takes a little encouragement to blossom.

Simple things. Attention. Intention. Just being present.

They laugh at me that I take pictures of our food and of them eating snow cones…but I know these days will be gone before I am ready. Taking pictures is part of my way of holding on to the moment.

I want them to know how to play and use their imaginations, but I think more than that, I just want to enjoy them. In my enjoyment I think they find a security and a confidence to just be themselves…and know that is enough.

So, this summer is all about memories of lazy things and “unimportant” things.

I have no plans to achieve great things this summer…I have plans to wear pajamas until noon and have tickle fights.

I have plans to whisper in their ears throughout the day that they are loved.

I have plans to lay in bed with them and read books.

 

I have plans to listen to them.

I have plans to look at the stars and tell them of a God who is filled with creativity and imagination…and that they are made in His image.  To remind them that they are loved by this God…that He delights in them and their laughter and their wonder. To point around them so that they can learn to look with wonder and hope and awareness.

Maybe I do have big plans after all. 

Memorable Mondays

I had so wanted to take pictures. Even had my camera in the car with pictures deleted so I could snap away as many as I like. When we pulled in the gravel driveway I think I actually heard a sharp intake of breath from the boy in the seat next to me.

 

This was not the time for pictures.

 

I have been wanting to send Zachary to Barefoot Republic for a couple years. A summer camp about an hour away from us, this place focuses on bringing a diverse group of young people together for a week of typical camp rituals. Wall climbing, eating bizarre foods, battles between cabins, worship services infused with youthful emotion. The pictures on their website and the videos they post on YouTube all show a group of kids laughing and playing hard and enjoying themselves.

Zach doesn’t have that many opportunities for this kind of event. He goes to youth group and he participates in sports and is around other kids…but there is just something a bit different about this place.  Maybe it is the diversity they seek out and encourage and facilitate. Maybe it is the enthusiasm of the counselors. I could see it and I was so excited.

The boy? Well…each mile on the GPS that counted down he got a little quieter and the jokes were a little less hearty. When we pulled in he was pretty quiet, other than mentioning he might die.

We checked him in and it all went faster than I wanted. He was swept up in his cabin by a counselor. I stood outside not wanting to be the hovering mom. I did, however, finally go in because I needed that last good-bye. He was busy filling out some paper and nodded and did say he loved me.

It was not exactly the departure I had planned…I was hoping for a little more of a glimmer in his eye. This is the first time he is away for camp…and I’ll be thinking about him all week.  I wish he could see on this end how great it is going to be…he sees instead the uncomfortable silences that are not in the pictures on FaceBook. The awkward moments where you don’t quite fit in or know what to do. The missing home.

Here’s the great thing, though…the counselors see both. They know that catch in the gut of the kids who are not comfortable, and they know how that same kid is going to be grinning from ear to ear at the end of the week. They know, and we parents hope, that these kids are going to see sometimes you have to take that uncomfortable leap into something new to find out how great it can be.

As I was walking away I heard one counselor shout a hello to another counselor. He greeted her and asked if she was ready for the week.

She gave a harried look and replied that she hoped so.

He laughed heartily and then said,

“No worries. God is ready.”

Yep, the boy is in good hands.

Sometimes Silence is Best…

I know it has been weeks since I have written anything here. The funny thing is that it is not because I have been so busy; things are beginning to settle down for the summer. There are still hockey games and activities, but the days are beginning to take on that lazy attitude.

Possibly that has led to my lack of enthusiasm to write, but I think it is actually something a little deeper.

There has been so much grief lately, and so many friends facing challenges if not significant trials. The tornados in Oklahoma…we’ll be driving right through there in a few weeks as we make our trek to NM and CO. I cannot imagine how those folks are beginning to start over. Such loss. Others who are facing health issues with children…and many I know only through FaceBook and yet follow their progress closely. Others who are changing jobs or houses or schools or towns and dealing with the uprooting and re-settling.

Others who face tremendous loss that comes suddenly.

Others who are doing well. Sometimes we forget to mention them, don’t we. Some who are still walking in the midst of all these events of life and do so with joy and with peace.

I just realized as I was walking this morning that I really have nothing to say. I go through these seasons and I realize that I am just adding to the noise (yes, I realize that it has taken me 200+ words to say that). It is not that I am unfeeling or that I am uncaring, it is rather that awareness that sometimes silence is best.

There is not an answer to friends who are facing deep challenges, but presence is helpful.

Prayers seem to filter down to groans.

And yet…wonder seeps in even in these times and the laugh of a 2 year old girl can bring such joy and delight.

All of this to say…time for a season of quiet. Time to observe, to pray and to read and to listen. Time to simplify for a bit. Time to just be. It is not that I am neglecting this blog…it is simply time for a season of quiet.

See you soon…when the words begin flowing again.