Tuesday, December 12, 2017

I remember it well. My friend and former pastor sat amid piles of wrapping paper on a beautiful Christmas morning. Christmas fell on Sunday that year and we postponed our normal routine to gather at Westbury Baptist Church. 
I paraphrase Dick's question to the congregation that morning—so what do we have left when all of the presents have been opened? 
Fast forward to this December...
There are no trappings; there are no walls. Hurricane Harvey swept away the likeliness of a familiar Christmas for many of us.  Other storms have cast a shadow over our celebrations; illness, death, brokenness shatter our Hallmark holiday.
We miss our mantels filled with shiny balls and evergreen, our stockings hung in a tidy row. Our trees no longer stand in the corner, decked with ornaments collected over a lifetime. There sits an empty seat at the table.


The premise of Dick's question still stands regardless of the circumstances.
What remains?
What cradles our souls when all seems lost?
What kindles joy when dreams never become reality?
What remains?
An infant king...a guiding star...hope found in a feeding trough and so many more gifts that lay ready to be unwrapped.  

Come to Bethlehem and see
 Replace the mountains of gift wrap for simple swaddling cloth
Like Simeon of old, let's embrace promise fulfilled

You may have your merry little Christmas, but the manger offers so much more...lasting hope and healing.
Oh, won't you come and see?
Abandon the lists and rest in His presence. This little Babe who journeyed to the Cross will not rob your joy or leave you exhausted. He promises to carry you through the loss and loneliness of this season. 
Oh, won't you come and see?
Come to Bethlehem and see...





Wednesday, November 22, 2017

She had but a little oil, not enough to hold on to hope. The widow cried out to Elisha, her creditor threatened to enslave her only treasure: her precious sons. 
A mama bird does most anything to protect her chicks.
Elisha had a plan in mind; God had a miracle in store.
The widow did not just sit and wait, but obediently sprang into action. Can you imagine the neighbors' reaction as she ran from house to house, asking for empty jars?
Has she lost her mind? She has no use for them; she doesn't have a single thing with which to fill them.
Then, God sprang into action, filling every one of those jars with oil; not a drop less, not a drop more.
Elisha instructed her to go sell the oil, pay her debts and be comforted that she would have enough left over to provide for her family of three.
Crisis diverted; hope restored. 
I love this story, but I always want to finish it with this single mother's reaction. I imagine her relief, her gratitude, her amazement. Does she hug Elisha and her boys, drenching them with her tears of gratitude or does she sit quietly, soaking in the magnitude of grace?
Every widow, every single mom could spill her own 2Kings story.  We've all been in her sandals, not knowing where to turn or what to do...then we are rescued. We are gifted with grace!
This Thanksgiving I sit soaking in the blessings of the past three months. My grateful heart is overflowing.
You have filled my jars, every last one of them.
You've listened, held my tears, mucked my house, washed my dishes, and filled my mailbox. 
You've filled my belly, you've covered my nose and blistered feet, you've washed my clothes and tackled my inventory.  You've waded through chest high water to restore my hope.
You know who you are, you generous, praying balcony people who cheer, encourage, spur me. I've known some of you for a very long time; others of you are now my new brothers and sisters. 
I name each of you in my prayers.
Grace...it's an overwhelming thing. My natural reaction is to pay everyone back just like Elisha's widow, but how can one ever satisfy such extravagant love and sacrifice?  I recently received a note in the mail that was accompanied with thoughtful gift cards. The "angels" simply asked that I pay it forward when given the opportunity.  Maybe grace and gratitude is a lot like miracle jars filled with oil. But, instead of selling them, we just keep pouring them out on others in need. 
This Thanksgiving I thank the church...not a building, but a community from so many walks of life.
We are a complicated, talented, and flawed lot of jars, waiting to be filled with God's Spirit and Plan.
We don't go by an acronym, like FEMA; we are the hands and feet of the Name above all names: Jesus.
You have been my James 1:27 church and I continually offer thanks for you.
May God bless you this Thanksgiving and fill your jars!








Monday, November 6, 2017

Lately, I've been asked how I'm doing in the aftermath of Harvey. My honest response: I'm hanging by a thread, but I'm still hanging. After yesterday's senseless attack on a small town church, it's frayed even more. 
I'm having a hard time holding on like so many I know. Maybe that's the problem; I'm doing all of the hanging. I stumbled across Deuteronomy 33:12 this weary morning...
Of Benjamin he said, "The beloved of the LORD dwells in safety. The High God surrounds him all day long and [he] dwells between his shoulders."

Maybe I'm expending so much energy clinging to my own frazzled fear of unknowns, that I'm not allowing God's promise to his children to carry me instead.

Let go! Like the climber who nestles herself into a harness and trusts the belay set, I need to trust the High God, the Anchor, who surrounds and carries me like a protective Father.

His anchor line is Triune; it runs through the entire Story with crimson security. He will not let my foot slip.
His harness offers rest for the weary.

So it's time to let go, be carried, and offer a new response:
I'm dwelling between His strong shoulders!

Jesus! I am resting, resting
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
  Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For, by Thy transforming power,
  Thou hast made me whole. Jean S. Pigott




Friday, November 3, 2017

Springer goes YARD!
We all love home runs.  If you are even an inkling of a Houston Astros fan, you have celebrated every one of those balls hit out of the park during post season play. 
Life, though, rarely offers us the opportunity to sail the bases toward home plate without fear of being tagged or stranded. More likely, we find ourselves chipping away, one dusty bag at a time. 
I often get so caught up in the final outcome that I lose sight of taking life in small manageable steps of faith. That's when frustration and fatigue tries to get the best of me and I lose hope of overcoming life's giants. David didn't hurl his whole bag of stones at Goliath; he simply took out one smooth stone. Can you imagine Noah's overwhelming state when charged with building an ark of such magnitude? I'm not sure the animals would have ever been led in for their extended stay had Noah not tackled God's project one cubit at a time.
Many of us can still see light peeking through the brick of our flood ravaged homes. Others see a long uphill battle back to health and wholeness; it's a long battle to the ninth inning. Life just isn't an easy jaunt home. 
But, base by base, chipping away at the score, victory is coming our way! God is carrying us to his finish line, step by step, trial by trial.

Yet He knows the way I have taken; when He has tested me, I will emerge as pure gold. Job 23:10 HCSB


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

My favorite photo was damaged in the flood.
It's my only copy. 
I loved everything about this picture; it represented our college years and it has been on my bulletin board for as long as I can remember.
Unfortunately, it fell into contaminated waters like so many things, but 
I managed to at least snap a picture in the chaos.
Now this photo captures my life so well.
So many sweet things are now blurred and scarred, but if I look hard enough I am able to see beauty. Rob is still visible, although not as clear as once before. 
Life is messy, I can't see all the details, but I know what once felt whole will be again.
By Him all things hold together. Colossians 1:17



Thursday, October 12, 2017

I will not waste this year!  Neither flood nor displacement will seize this year. This conviction continues to grow within me, one of the rich lessons of trauma.
Although I've lost a good portion of my stuff, intimacy will not be recorded on my inventory.  Intimacy...the desire of my heart! I'm reminded today that we were made for just that. Intimacy is not a waste of our time.
Last night, in the bustle of Wednesday night church activities, I locked hearts with another woman who too had walked chest deep through the waters. Her eyes brimming with collected tears, she poured her evacuation story in detail and I listened as if my very life depended on it. It did! Listening to the stories has become my passion; no waste in that. Whether we realize it or not, we need storytellers and ready listeners.  This is how we all will pass through the waters. 
And this is how we deepen our relationships.
The courageous both spill and absorb life's narratives.  Are you doing both?
But even more importantly, I draw near to the God who hears, the creator of intimate relationship. Jesus stops, Jesus really listens, and Jesus weeps. 
As a novice writer, I'm clearly eager to disentangle my thoughts, but my true desire is to become a good listener like Jesus. Listening will not be a waste of time.
He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too. This is the beginning of the death of the spiritual life. . . . Anyone who thinks that his time is too valuable to spend keeping quiet will eventually have no time for God and his brother, but only for himself and for his own follies. 
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Monday, October 9, 2017

Sunday night draws to a close. Even though I know I should call it a night, I fight sleep. Waking up means a new week of paperwork, endless calls and more work in a place I don't recognize as home anymore.
Another Sunday night,  finding myself in a battle to see the good in all of this...again, the joy!
I return to the counting of gifts.
I'm profoundly grateful for tenacious love! I'm girded by a small army that doesn't give up on me. They listen once again to my story, my sorting out of this ongoing chaos. They feed me with meal after meal, but even better, with helpings of hope and acceptance of my ever-changing moods. They anticipate my every need. They show up again and again. Tenacious love! They understand that love runs a marathon ; it's no easy sprint. Their talk is gentle, brimming with kindness and they push off my feeble attempts to pay them back; they want nothing from me.  Tenacious,  like our Father's unfailing love.
I'm learning to live open-handed, receiving grace instead of grasping for it. I tend to get grabby when my faith falters. How can I forget His faithfulness so easily, especially with this army of mine?
" Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Do you leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home  Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ' Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' " Luke 15

Tenacious love...