Reacting with Gospel Reality.

I have been walking for a couple months now. Some weeks better than others, however for a few weeks I was walking between 5-10 miles a day.

It was a commitment.

It took time out of my day and called for sacrificing other things.

I walked so I would feel better, and so I could lose some weight. After about 5 weeks of walking consistently I was at a house with a scale (our scale is broken). I thought I would see how I was progressing.

I had gained 6 pounds.

I didn’t walk the rest of that week out of irritation and frustration.

This week I am starting again…realizing again that some things simply take time and commitment. They take discipline and a long view.

The walk of the Christian is the same.

I have always loved the book title from Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. The reality of our pursuing Christ, of our Christian walk of discipleship, is that it is a long obedience. Sometimes there are dramatic results which happen quickly, but far more often the results of the Spirit working in our lives play out over long lengths of time.

When we are struck by a circumstance which used to excite in us anger or frustration and we react instead with compassion and patience, we realize the work that has been happening. Prayer and reading Scripture, worship and teaching and community have been at work in our character.

I don’t think any of us could imagine a circumstance that would allow for a reaction of anger and frustration as much as the shooting in Charleston. In the midst of a Biblestudy to be met with something so evil.

The forgiveness that was evidenced, immediately, by the family members and congregation in Charleston happened because that is their character. The reaction of forgiveness could not have simply been manufactured that evening in an attempt to do what they thought was correct. They reacted with grace, with great emotion, and with forgiveness because they have pursued the One who makes that possible. In the moment they showed the result of years of walking in prayer and the reality of a God who is both Just and Compassionate.

I don’t know that I could have reacted so quickly with such grace. There is still deep mourning, deep grieving. That does not overshadow the grace that has been so on display.

The result? A community which has joined together in their mourning. No rioting, no violence. Grace. Still calling for justice, yet so marked by grace.

The rest of us? We are grasping at ways to react. Banning flags, ridding ourselves of guns. Hugging people we might not otherwise hug. Listening with a more compassionate ear and trying to hear through the anger and the frustration.

We want to stop this from happening again. We want to somehow shore up these people with compassion…and sometimes the best way we find to do that is to shout angrily against the evil, or even the symbols of the evil.

We have to do something. The evil in our midst demands a reaction.

We can only react with forgiveness and grace when we are so immersed in the language of Gospel that it comes naturally. Otherwise we are left to our insufficient fixes.

There are some things we can do physically and immediately to move forward. We can dialog and we can listen, and we can care deeply. Not cliche, not simplistic…we can truly deeply care. More than our agenda or what makes us uncomfortable, we can listen with Gospel reality.

Gospel which calls for reconciliation and grace and true peace. Gospel which calls for caring for others more deeply than ourselves. Gospel which proclaims hope in the midst of confusion. Gospel reality which proclaims a God who intervenes and transforms.

it is good to debate and to think through our stands on all the issues involved. Let’s follow the example of those who are most intimately impacted, and who have earned to have a louder voice, reacting with grace and forgiveness. Debating with grace and compassion.

Taking down a flag will not solve evil.

Flying a flag will not secure freedom. 

Transformation by the Gospel will prepare us for the next moment we are shocked and we hope to react in a way that proclaims we are Children of the Savior.

Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.  

2 Corinthians 3:16-18 The Message

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Strengthened by the Testimony of the Saints.

“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours… it is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully and personally. If this is true, it means that to lose track of our stories is to be profoundly impoverished not only humanly but also spiritually” – Frederick Buechner

In the last few months I have heard of several more people with families members now marked by Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Several more families now watching the person they love diminish before them. Several more families wondering how to care well for these loved ones, how to walk through this new season without becoming exhausted and overwhelmed.

Those that are closest to me, I refer to my Dad. The husband of one of these I told to call my Dad because he has walked through this with a wisdom and a grace that give strength. Not perfectly, and he will say he has done so with nothing remarkable…but the truth is he has shown all of us how to walk well in the season of suffering. I’ve learned from him. His story gives strength to those who hear it; they know they are not alone and that this challenge is not impossible.

The reality is that so many are touched by some form of this disease. The quotation from Buechner above is often used, mostly because of the deep truth it tells. We need to hear each others’ stories because they tell us more about our own situation. They give us strength in the midst of our own fears or our own uncertainty. We need to hear the testimony of those who have walked a little further in the struggle than we, and can tell us of God’s grace.

In the Book of Revelation, when it tells of the accuser of the saints being conquered, this is said:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” Revelation 12:11

Our testimony carries weight.

Our stories carry weight.

So. To those friends who have just begun the journey of Alzheimer’s or Dementia, to those who are overwhelmed with fear and sadness: God is still there. God is still in the midst and His grace is present. The testimony of the saints who have walked this way proclaims that.

Here is what my testimony in the middle of this journey proclaims:
It’s okay to be sad, to be overwhelmingly saddened by the loss of the personality of the one you love. To grieve deeply as life events unfold and you are aware that this person who is present is not completely with you…and to know how different the situation would be if they were. To know how they would love your children, to know how they would laugh and would rejoice over your accomplishments.
It is okay to grieve, in the midst of the journey…but know you cannot grieve the entire time. There will be moments of laughter in the midst of this craziness. There will be moments of light.

Dad: “Good morning, my dear. I love you.”

Mom: “Well. What do you want?”

———————

Brother: “Mom, did you like that restaurant?”

Mom: “Yes.”

Brother: “Would you like to go back?”

Mom: “Well, not tonight!”

There will be glimpses of that personality that pop up. And they will be all the more treasured because they are rare and they will bring a flood of memories of who that person is who is in your midst still.

 Laugh and rejoice in those moments, and don’t be afraid to laugh.

GrandmaWatch

This is a long and tiring mourning. This is a slow losing of the person in front of you: pace yourself. Rejoice when you can, and mourn when you need to. Then look for God in the midst. See Him in graces small and large. In family coming together in the midst of struggle. In strength you didn’t know you possessed. In appreciating this person in ways you might never have done without this change.

And realize that as we weep over this disease and what it does, we weep with God. This wounding of creation, this loss…I truly believe that He grieves with us. As Creation groans…as we groan. We cling to the promise of new life, of new creation. Of grace and of a Creator who cares and who intervenes and who redeems. We cling with hope as we hear the testimonies.

Tell stories. Tell of the one you love and remember them well, in the midst of the struggle. Write down the stories and remember. Know that you are not alone and pay attention. Know that eventually your testimony will bring strength to someone.

Again, Buechner

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

The Necessity of Play

Yesterday as I was walking I listened to a TED radio hour about play. Now, I was outside and I was moving, but I wasn’t exactly playing.

 

I was working to get my body in better shape…so that I can play more. With my kids. Because sometimes they need encouragement to play.

 

We all need that encouragement, and yet after listening to the speakers, I realized the importance of play. Or I remembered.  Play should be a priority.

 

We are born stamped with the image of a Creative and playful God. Yes, we face a myriad of struggles in this life, and there are so many things to think deeply about and to weep over. There are enormous, staggering issues that surround us. There are also the mundane duties and necessities of life, which demand our attention.

 

Still, there is this wiring in us that looks for and loves play.

 

There are waterfalls and rainbows and amazing sunsets and wonder all around us. There are signs everywhere of a Creator at play.

sunset
The colors purple and pink.

 

The platypus.

Laughter. Deep, releasing and spontaneous laughter. The kind where you can’t contain yourself.

SammyGrandmaLaugh

 

And when we play we relate in such a different way. With freedom and with joy. Imagination.

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“That’s a sure way to tell about somebody–the way they play, or don’t play, make-believe.” Madeleine L’Engle

 

Part of the TED talk was with a Dr. Steve Brown who had researched the role of play in murderers. They didn’t play. They didn’t engage in spontaneous play as children. And they didn’t learn empathy. They didn’t learn the necessities of life that come through play. That is fairly staggering.

 

 

The true object of all human life is play. Earth is a task garden; heaven is a playground. G.K. Chesterton

 

We have to have a release in the midst of the struggle. We have to sometimes be reminded to play.

 

Pinterest and my Facebook feed are full of ideas to spark play in our children this summer. There is a tinge of sadness that we have to sometimes manufacture play because our children need the encouragement. Maybe we need to incorporate more play in our lives so it becomes more engrained…then it can be more spontaneous. Maybe we, I, need to not say no when the children want to play…we need to encourage it and enlarge that desire.

 

 

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” G. K. Chesterton

It’s summertime. Let’s play. Let’s let down our guard a bit and get silly and get wet in the sprinklers and run around with the kids. Let’s laugh until we pee. Then laugh some more.

Let us allow that joy to revive us this summer.

Let’s play, and show our kids we still know how to be alive. Go throw a water balloon at someone, or color a picture, or play video games with your kids.

“I do not think that the life of Heaven bears any analogy to play or dance in respect of frivolity. I do think that while we are in this ‘valley of tears,’ cursed with labour, hemmed round with necessities, tripped up with frustrations, doomed to perpetual plannings, puzzlings, and anxieties, certain qualities that must belong to the celestial condition have no chance to get through, can project no image of themselves, except in activities which, for us here and now, are frivolous.

For surely we must suppose the life of the blessed to be an end in itself, indeed The End: to be utterly spontaneous; to be the complete reconciliation of boundless freedom with order–with the most delicately adjusted, supple, intricate, and beautiful order?

How can you find any image of this in the ‘serious’ activities either of our natural or of our (present) spiritual life? Either in our precarious and heart-broken affections or in the Way which is always, in some degree, a via crucis?

No, Malcolm. It is only in our ‘hours-off,’ only in our moments of permitted festivity, that we find an analogy. Dance and game are frivolous, unimportant down here; for ‘down here’ is not their natural place. Here, they are a moment’s rest from the life we were place here to live.

But in this world everything is upside down. That which , if it could be prolonged here, would be a truancy, is likest that which in a better country is the End of ends. Joy is the serious business of Heaven.” – C.S. Lewis