Fear and Truth

Its tendons tighten ‘round her throat

Fear’s icy fingers grip

A lullaby in minor chord 

Echoes from fear’s lips 

Why isn’t she better? The words bounce ‘round

Why is it taking so long?

Did we do the right thing?

Did we make the right choice?

Is there something else going on?
She tries to hush fear’s haunting voice

Pry loose fear’s tightening grasp

But memories of another time

Clench fear’s fingers fast

The weight of a tiny cold dark form

Wrapped in blankets tight 

A final breath escapes her lips 

She slips into the Light
The scent of death and dirt and clay 

As they lay her down to rest

Still fills her senses to this day

And leaves her a broken mess

Trust in God, the faithful quip

He’ll never let us go

And the pious mourners leave her grave

Unscathed by the treacherous woe
Repeat, replay, those memories ore

Her mind cannot turn off

As another daughter suffers long

With pain, and rash, and cough

The surgery was supposed to help

Her healing to be quick

But the progress vacillates and slows

Because she was so sick 
Fear growls in guttural tones aloud 
“she’s mine, she’s mine, she’s mine”

And pins her to the chair, afraid

Immobilized, confined

“She’s not,” the Shepherd’s voice commands 

With authority all Its own 

“She was never yours, she will never be

So away with you, be gone” 
Fear and Truth declare a war

For heart and soul and mind 

And somewhere in her deepest self

Truth’s Hope begins to shine

A knowing that when all she loved

Was ripped from arms and chest

The only thing that held steadfast

Was Truth that never left
Truth cannot lie and will not leave

Her heart to fear’s demise

Truth shrouds her grieving vulnerable soul

With Love from Heaven’s skies 

Truth lifts her trembling doubting head

And turns her face with awe

Plants deep within a greater peace

The Truth, she sees, is God

Beauty from ashes

Nearly every day I travel the same road and turn at this intersection where a house once stood. The vacant house burned to the ground a few months ago. 


The rubble so changed the landscape that the first time I went that way after it burned, I missed my turn.

I took the familiar route for a second time today, but this afternoon was stunned to find merry little daffodils poking through patches of snow and ashes and concrete. 

If you are looking around in your life today and all you see is ashes, rubble, ruin, despair, coldness, hardness, emptiness, I pray for you glimmers of hope. 

When we are in times of great distress, it can feel like our landscape changes. Our sense of direction becomes unclear, landmarks crumble. What was familiar becomes strange. 

But God’s promises are true and he is faithful. 

To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory. Isaiah 63:1

Like the seed that is buried in the ground, dormant, lifeless, and cold, eventually the seed germinates, a sprout emerges, and a bud bursts forth. 

At just the right time, when it seems there is nothing left to live for and despair seems to have the final word, hope springs forth from the ashes of our lives. 

These “dark nights of the soul” are potential times for great transformation. 

I am reminded of this “Hymn of Promise” by Natalie A Sleeth. 

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;

In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!

In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;

There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.

From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.



In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;

In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,

In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,

Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

May you sense these blessed promises in your own life today! 

Of kings, horses, politics, and hope

“Some trust in chariots, some in horses…” Psalm 20:7a (NIV)

I have known this to be true literally and figuratively. I still have a copy of the letter my mom received by the Old Order Mennonite couple who bought our buggy when mom left the church at age 47. With all sincerity and love, the letter includes chastisement for falling away from the faith (no longer driving a horse and buggy or dressing as a conservative Mennonite) and the immediate and eternal consequences one can expect when they do.

I can read past the judgement now, to see the love and concern they had for our family, but every time I think of this verse from Psalm 20, I simultaneously think of that letter.

Besides putting our trust in our preparedness, wealth, possessions, religious rituals, etc., we also tend to put our trust in our leaders and potential leaders. I get it. I have my own feelings about it all.

But to think that any one candidate alone can save our nation and ourselves, or to think that we are beyond hope and God cannot move or save if our candidate of choice does not win is preposterous.To put our trust in nations, kings, horses, and chariots, (people or possessions) is to miss the point of trusting God alone.

The second half of that verse from Psalm 20 reads, “but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

Here is the verse altogether. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 20:7 (NIV) Read all of Psalm 20 here. 

If we say our hope is in God, if we proclaim that we know and follow Jesus and his teachings, then we should “Let [our] conversation be gracious and attractive so that [we] will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 (NLT.) 

“Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.” Philippians 2:14-15 (NLT)

 “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14 (NLT)

Let us trust in the name of the Lord our God alone, for indeed, He is our only hope.

Anguish, Bitterness, Hope

Words stir deep within, swirling up to my head, but I have been unable to type or speak them.

A friend calls, crying, concerned about a loved one’s recent diagnosis. Another texts memorial service information for a small child. At church, we gather around a prayer quilt to speak words of hope and healing for a teenager facing a threatening illness. A friend’s marriage is falling apart. The news is reporting speechless acts of violence and terror.

This is just in one day. I am just one person.

To imagine that all around the world there are people in homes and hospitals pleading for more moments, begging for second chances, is beyond my ability to comprehend.

suckometer

I’m a firm believer that only light can drive out darkness, but my lamp is flickering from the winds of terror, injustice, violence, and disease.

I turn to stories of believers across the ages, finding solace in their honest confessions of fear, doubt, and unbelief.

“In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the LORD, weeping bitterly.” (1 Samuel 1:10 NIV)

“Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” (Job 7:11 NIV)

“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.” (Psalm 56:8 NLT)

The words of Jesus beckon me.

come to Jesus

“I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NLT)

The soul longs for “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,”  (Matthew 6:10 KJV) and for the time when “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4 NLT)

But until then we are here, smack dab in the middle of a messed up, broken, anguished world. I don’t have fancy words. I don’t have a master plan to fix the brokenness, but I hear the Master’s voice soothing, reassuring, comforting: “And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

May all whose hearts are broken, whose lives are shattered, whose worlds have stopped, know that I and many are collectively weeping for their sorrows and praying for their comfort.

And with their pain in mind, we are trying to be kinder, gentler, more generous to those within our own circle of influence.

change the world

May these words of confession and pardon renew our hope and inspire us anew to share the good news of Christ’s love to all.

Prayer of Confession

(based on John 20: 24-29; Luke 24:36-43)

Wondrous God, we confess that at times our doubts and fears override our hope and faith. Forgive us when we lose sight of the joy of Your love and instead fall into despair and gloom. Lift up our spirits, Lord, and help us to remember the promise of new life here and now, not just the hope of resurrection for the future. We give thanks for Your Son, Jesus the Christ, who continues to offer us new life, who continues to turn us around and upside down, who continues to break down the walls of death in our own life. Forgive us, restore us and renew us. In the name of our risen Savior, Jesus the Christ, we pray. Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

The tomb is empty. The stone is rolled away. There is no darkness now, only light. God continues to renew us and restore us. We are forgiven, loved and restored, receiving the gift and promise of new life and resurrection now. Go and share the wondrous news of God’s love in Jesus the Christ. Amen.

Words of confession and pardon written by Rev. Mindi, and posted on her Rev-o-lution blog. 

Amen.

Dear June

I wrote this letter to June in 2012. An updated response is churning. Look for it soon!

Dear June,

I never gave you much thought. As a child, you were the month that started my care-free summers. By the time I was a teenager, you were just another page on the calendar. But now you haunt me. I am never prepared for the wave of conflicting emotions that wash over me every time you come around. It feels like June 2007 every year you visit. 

Sadie Rose

Your sweet fragrance of summer brings with it the smell of hospitals and funeral homes. The delightful sound of children enjoying your sunshine also rings with the sounds of hospital carts squeaking down the hall, doctors and nurses talking in hushed tones, and hearts breaking. Your beautiful green mountains and bountiful gardens remind me of the greenness of the cemetery grass, the tiniest white baby casket surrounded by flowers, family gathered to remember. Your fresh corn on the cob leaves a bittersweet taste in my mouth as I remember feed-sacks-full being shucked to feed our family that had gathered in shock and disbelief after the death of our baby girl.

Sadie in sand

So much I want to remember, so much I long to forget.

June, my dear June, I don’t hate you, I just don’t know what to do with you. One minute I welcome your presence and the next I am overcome with another wave of sadness and memories. You seem like a dream. Are you real or just a ghost to remind me of what we had and lost? What do you want from me? Do I have to give up Sadie again every time you come around? Will you hurt me forever?

Sadie's stone

This carousel, this annual visitation, reopens the wounds of my already aching heart. I want to be friends, but I don’t know how. If you find me distant, if your sweet summer breezes cannot penetrate the barriers of my heart, please know that I am just now learning how to accept you. I am trying to understand how our relationship has changed, how I have changed. Walk with me sweet June, and we will eventually come to a new understanding, a fresh hope. And in the meantime, just continue being that steadfast annual presence. 

Sweet Sadie, sweet memories, sweet month of June. 

Sadie Rose Harlow, born, lived, and died, June 20, 2007. 

Waiting

Waiting. I am currently waiting for a haircut appointment. I have someone else waiting on me for an appointment. But sometimes the waiting is more difficult. Sometimes waiting requires being present. Being present requires being still, reflective, looking deep within and acknowledging all that we are and then addressing that which is revealed.

Yesterday I waited for my grief to diminish. Grief that caught me off-guard as I anticipate the 6-year anniversary of our daughter’s birth and death this week. Six years. Haven’t I waited long enough?

I wait in anticipation of my upcoming licensing service this Sunday.

I can fill my waiting time with meaningless clutter or I can sit, be present, feel and acknowledge whatever emotions I am experiencing at that moment and pray that in the waiting I am learning and growing, emptying and filling.

And sometimes, waiting is done best by playing…

20130618-111912.jpg

20130618-111930.jpg

20130618-111956.jpg

More Interruptions

I had no idea when I posted last about life’s interruptions how greatly our life was about to be interrupted. Death, a most unwelcome intruder, visited our family once again with the unexpected passing of my father-in-law, Edward Lyle Harlow. He died of an apparent heart attack April 30.

I was going by to drop Elsie off for a few hours so I could paint at my office. I was pulling into the driveway when my mother-in-law found him collapsed on the kitchen floor.

The next few hours were a blur. As we sat around the kitchen table, steam still rising from his coffee cup on the warmer, I was reminded again of how our lives had been interrupted.

I was angry. I hurt for my husband, my mother-in-law, my brother-in-law, myself and our children. I was not at all ready for this interruption.

While are hearts are still broken, our eyes still weeping, the memories too fresh, we have found comfort in the gifts our dear daddy/husband/grandpa left behind.

An avid gardener and lover of flowers, trees, plants and landscapes, it was almost like our dear Ed knew what was about to unfold. Nearly every day since his death two and a half weeks ago, plants he ordered have arrived in the mail, one of which is called “Widow’s Tears.” A fancy honeysuckle showed up that he intentioned to plant along our chain link fence as well as wave petunias, dahlias, heirloom tomatoes, peppers and other plants. He had a sense of humor that was always present even among the most magnificent garden displays as shown in these photos.

Although we have had many moments of intense sadness, these “gifts” have evoked smiles through the tears. Although Eli and Elsie have had many questions and have cried many tears for grandpa, we are taking time as a family to care for his plants and remember him in a beautiful way. There is something so powerful and unifying in watering and tending flowers together as we rehearse stories and laugh about cherished memories of our precious loved one.

Interruptions. We cannot avoid them. We cannot prevent them. We cannot expect them to adhere to our schedule. But in time, we can find beauty rising from the ashes of our sorrow. We can find small, seemingly insignificant things that become the most meaningful moments of our day and if we allow it, we can grow from these interruptions. Just as we are tending the plants from daddy and encouraging them to grow, these interruptions can cause us to blossom more fully into the persons we were created to be. Adversity can be the fertilizer that nourishes the most beautiful gardens.

20130518-223017.jpg

20130518-223048.jpg

20130518-223059.jpg

20130518-223106.jpg

20130518-223401.jpg

20130520-170755.jpg

20130520-170820.jpg

20130520-170834.jpg

20130520-170843.jpg

20130520-170851.jpg

20130520-170858.jpg