To Carpet the Earth

The other day I read the following statement in a blog by Esther Emery:

Pain happens anyway. Do we spend our days trying to carpet the entire earth? Or do we wear shoes? Learn and teach how to live in the grief, work in the frustration, heal in the physical pain. Learn how to be the broken people we are, because that doesn’t go away.

I am so guilty of wanting to “wish away” life’s hurts. For myself. For my family. For my friends. If I had my way, I would carpet the entire earth so everyone had a smooth path to travel.

And I would be surrounded by a whole lot of weak people, myself included.

As much as I love going barefoot, sometimes I have to wear shoes. Because there are places that just plain old require that.

Going barefoot is only an option when the road is less than thorny. And all too often, it’s not.

In response to Emery’s statement of pain and brokenness, I began journaling my own thoughts…

I cannot remove the suffering, no matter how much I wish it away. But I can partner with others on this broken journey of sin-soaked soil and shine a little light in the darkness. No matter how dimly my little light shines. I can train my focus to turn from removing the obstacles for others; it is too exhausting for these fragile, earthy hands of mine. Instead, I can work toward strengthening myself in the divine. Toughening the calloused hands that embrace the broken pieces of too much living. Because the suffering will remain as long as His coming tarries. The hurts will always be here on Terra firma…

In the middle of my writing, I was interrupted by a phone call from a loved one. A  friend whose voice broke into tears almost immediately after my initial “hello.” While I waited in silence, her voice haltingly shared her most recent hurt. And I was faced with the urge to “carpet her earth” in that moment. To set her feet on a softer path where she could experience the joy of going barefoot through the softness of a journey that was all sunshine and roses – without the thorns.

Though it warred against my rising compassion, I resisted the temptation to pacify her heart against the convictions burning within her. I could not find a loophole that would soften the blow to her heart as I was reminded, in real time, that as much as I want to “wish away the pain,” I know it lies deeper than my hands can reach.

And so I listened. And loved. And prayed for God’s grace to grow and somehow overcome the hurt. The all-tied-up-in-a-knot emotions of a heart disappointed. I avoided preaching the “quick fix” mantras of Christianity, because there really is no “quick fix” for a heart hurting, no magical repair of relationships gone terribly wrong. There is only grace. And love. And that, we will always have, even while facing a circumstance that neither of us wished were true.

But to remind a broken heart while it’s breaking seems almost pointless. Even cruel.

After hanging up the phone, I picked up my pen and continued my journal entry with the following:

The hurts will always be here on Terra firma… But so will the light. And no matter how darkly the coverage of gathering storms clouds up the skies, the light will always be strong enough to pierce its thickness. So love through the hurts, walk hand-in-hand through the broken rubble, and trust the love that lingers when circumstances make no sense. Engage your will against resistance, and travel on. Together.

No, I cannot possibly carpet the whole earth and soften the blows of pain that are certain to come, sometimes with knock-out proportions. I can only train myself to rest in God’s love and take the brokenness that surrounds me before the One who makes all things new…

Even when our hopes have been shattered and our minds cannot begin to comprehend what He is up to.

So I will lace up my shoes – though I’d much rather run barefoot – and join you on this journey that stretches before us. And together, we will trust His love that lingers when the temporal flees.

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When Life is More Than Bumps and Bruises

Cancer. Death. Sickness. Marital strife. Persecution. Imprisonment. Loneliness. Isolation. Grief.

These are words that have become common in the lives of those surrounding me. This has been a year of being shaken by the massive quantity of hurt in this world. By the amount of hurt in those whom I love.

So how do I help to alleviate the pain?

How can I possibly tell a friend with cancer that “Everything will be okay”?

How can I console a friend in a broken marriage when there is no guarantee that there is a healing at the end of her painful struggle?

How can I encourage a persecuted brother who is living a life of separation from everyone he loves, from all that is known and familiar to him?

How can I press my hands against this bleeding mass of humanity that surrounds me when I only have two hands and a human body that is limited by so many of my own frail weaknesses?

The truth is, I can’t.

I can’t fix what is broken.

I can’t mend hearts.

I can’t restore relationships or stop religious persecution.

I can’t bridge miles of separation, nor repair the damage that has been inflicted by the forces of broken promises and betrayal.

But I can pray.

I can place my friends at the foot of the Cross and trust that He who heals the nations can heal the hurt of a loved one. That the One who restores the prostitute and makes her His beloved Bride can breathe life into all this brokenness and bring about a work of beauty. A rendition of redemption that only a Savior can cast and mold and make into a reflection of His glory.

And today, I must trust that my prayers are enough.

Enough for the friend with cancer.

Enough for the grieving parent.

Enough for the lonely wife.

Enough for the brokenhearted.

images Because sometimes life is more than bumps and bruises.

Sometimes the hurt penetrates to the core of who we are.   

But it never penetrates beyond the reach of a heavenly hand that promises to uphold and sustain through it all.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be shaken.” ~ Psalm 55:22

A Time to Weep and a Time to Laugh

This has been a week straight out of Ecclesiastes 3:
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…

And my email inbox has proven it. I have received so many messages this week swinging with the pendulum of the highs and lows of “to everything.”

Photos of a new baby… requests for prayers for a family who is unexpectedly burying their ten-year old daughter.

A father’s brag book of his primary-aged children… images of a tornado-stricken elementary school that claimed too many little lives.

A friend who purchased a new home… families who have lost theirs.

Reports of a teenage daughter who is flourishing in her faith… continued prayers for sons and daughters who are struggling to stand strong in a society that is set to destroy their truth and morality.

And the list goes on as my heart swings back and forth with the rising and falling of the pendulum. With the birthing and the dying, the praises and the pain, the good news and the troubles, and all the myriad of arcs in between.

So what am I to do with all this swinging?

PRAY.

Pray continually, even when I’m weary of lifting the same petitions over and over.

Pray with thanksgiving, knowing that God hears every cry of the heart.

Pray with a faith that believes in the power of a Living God even though I feel so very powerless.

Pray and trust in the One who remains constant and steadfast in His care through every wild swing of the pendulum of this life.

Even. When. It. Hurts.

As my heart bobs and weaves with the sways of these “everythings,” I find myself bowing again before the One who sustains me. Thanking Him for His presence. Pleading for His mercies to extend to people whom I’ve never met, but with whom I grieve. Asking for His joy to remain full with those who are experiencing a time of blessing. Hoping that the blessings remain for an extended period of time, even as I pray the suffering of others hastens to an end.

For today, I am choosing to follow the lead of Romans 12:15:
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

I will celebrate with the new daddy, and I will cry with the grieving parents.

I will cheer you on in your accomplishments, and I will wrap my arms around you when you fail, holding you close until you are ready to make that next attempt.

I will be your friend for this moment – whatever that moment may be.

Because your life is destined to morph and transform from one set of circumstances to the next.

Challenges, celebrations, trials, and triumphs.

Life is filled with seasons.

And God is Keeper of them all.

Autumn.

Winter.

Spring.

Summer.

The highs and lows of life swing back and forth

The joys and the sufferings rotate in and out, some staying longer than we would wish.

But none staying beyond the reach of an all-knowing and faithful God who has promised to provide His presence through it all.

Regardless of where the pendulum of life seems to have you swinging at this moment, may you feel His hand of love resting upon you.

Hastening the season of blessing…

Upholding you until that season comes.

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When Words Fail

today i cannot find them
they disappear before i catch them
escaping my thoughts
like puffs of dandelion dust
fleeing in the wind
scattered letters
overtaken
divided
loosened from their core and
tossed by tempests of
too
much
hurt

piles of letters upon letters
fragments eluding containment
refusing to come together
evading arrangement
defying any semblance of order
much like the thoughts of my heart
disjointed emotions
fleeting feelings
ceasing to make sense
refusing to
complete
the
whole

encouragement falls by the wayside
gasping for breath with each
crashing wave of grief
too many tears
that fill and weigh heavy
smothering
choking at hope
loosening light
exchanging joy for mourning
in this reversal of roles that
taunts
kingdom
living

i am undone
but not in awe
i am consumed
but not with the promise of abundant life
not lifted by the winds of praise
but overwhelmed by the aching of
bending to these breezes of brokenness
ceasing to live
i merely exist
struggling to be something more
than
simply
raw

What do you do when words fail?

Where do you turn when the only place you long for is a solitary place away from the demands of others? Away from the crushing weight of daily living that is filled with sorrow and emptiness? When no clear thoughts can be formed in your mind, let alone lived out in your days?

In short, what do you do in the face of so much hurt?

Try as I might, I can’t come up with that answer for you.

To fill your ears with incessant chatter seems pointless; indeed, it seems that it would only heap hurt upon hurt. Even to flood this page with Scripture verse after verse, though filled with the truth of God’s promises, may only cause you more frustration than hope.

So today, I will join you in this struggle for words, and I will remain silent. I will sit and listen and pray that my presence in your pain somehow brings a bit of comfort to you.

When words fail, love remains.

If nothing else, may you trust in that truth for your life today.

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When it Hurts…

Please pray for me. However the Lord may lead you to do so. I need it.

This is the note I woke up to find in my inbox this morning. No details of the situation were included. Just a request for God’s intervention.

Just an SOS from a hurting friend.

Please pray for me… I need it.

Prayer is needed.

For broken hearts. For lives rushing headlong toward situations that seem they can only turn out badly. For children who are neglected. Marriages that are unstable. Lives crushed from the weight of so many unanswered questions. Hearts heavy from too much hurt.

And in the midst of my prayers for a friend who is hurting, I was reminded of a simple truth:

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When it hurts, run to God.

And so I did.

And I am.

And I will continue to do so.

For my friend.

For myself.

For all the unknown trials and burdens that are yours to endure in this moment of living.

When it hurts, run to God.

Then stay there until the burden is lifted.

Until God’s peace intersects with the point of your brokenness.

Until you sense the presence of a Savior who has borne each of your trials upon His own shoulders.

Until you rest in the care of the One who can carry it all.

When it hurts, run to God.

Allow nothing to keep you from the Keeper of your soul.

Run past the doubts.

Push through the obstacles that block the way to His presence.

Run with faith, believing that God is with you in your journey.

No matter how long the road may seem.

No matter the number of doubts that tempt you to cease trusting.

No matter how much it hurts.

Run until you reach His throne and find His grace when you need it most.

“So let us come boldly to the throne of  our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” ~ Hebrews 4:16