Tuesday, November 29, 2016

He is near, a post in memory of Uncle Marlin

He is near.
My Jesus is near.

When I lost my Father to brain cancer when I was only 12 years old, I felt abandoned by God.
In my estimation of reality, He was nowhere near.
He was far, far away, handling other business, leaving me all alone, turning me over to my own resources and my own ability (or inability) to grieve and bear the weight of the emptiness left behind by my dad’s passing.

Now I know.
I know He was closer than ever in that moment I looked upon the shell of my father’s body and said my last earthly goodbye.  He was close, so very near to me then and near to me now.

Yesterday, I woke to a text message to pray for my uncle who was undergoing emergency surgery. This uncle--from whom I always felt love and respect--needed prayer, needed God to be near.
Less than six hours later, I received the shocking, unexpected news that he had passed away.
And, in that moment, while I stirred the taco meat on my stove-top and nearly stumbled to the floor after reading the text, GOD was NEAR.

He was near and is near. And I know this now without a doubt. I know because, though my feelings have oft belied the truth, God’s Word, the Truth, tells me He is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

And not only is He near now, but He was near then when my uncle passed from this earth into eternity.  

I have spent many of my earthly days in lament.
Perhaps, the mixture of my melancholy personality and having experienced a significant loss at an early age inclines me toward a sorrowful disposition. I feel comfortable among the brokenhearted, burned, busted up and barren. These are my people. This is my tribe.

These are also Jesus’s people, His tribe. He was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.
Oh, how I breathe more deeply and settle down into my seat when I read these words.
I am not alone. I am known, and Jesus is not afraid of my sorrow. He is not put off and does not try to put a positive spin on it all. He just settles in beside me, wraps His arms around me and says, “This is not how I wanted it all to be for you, for my creation. And, this is not all there is. Take heart. I have overcome. There is more for you than saying goodbye again and again and again.”

And He sends my fellow sojourners to incarnate His love and comfort to me through promised prayers, a phone call, an offer for me to come and talk it all out on a friend’s couch.
Many of those fellow travelers are on the last leg of their journey here on earth, ones that, too, have spent a number of their earthly days lamenting. How meaningful is their comfort, how weighty are their words of hope to me.

They have lived long. They have said many goodbyes. They are not afraid of sorrow.

Today, I am afflicted but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing; struck down but not destroyed.
Death is all around, but life is mine.
I do not lose heart for though my outer self is wasting away, my inner self is being renewed day by day.
My uncle has never been more alive. He is dead to this world, but alive unto Jesus, seeing Him face to face, standing with the One who willingly became a man of sorrows to rescue us from all of our earthly ones.
The grief is painful and heavy but momentary and preparing me for an eternal rest and rejoicing at the feet of my Jesus, who is very near.  

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Poor, Plundered and Needy

Psalm 12:5, 7 

Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
    I will now arise,” says the Lord.
    I will protect them from those who malign them.
You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
    and will protect us forever from the wicked.

As I read this passage the other morning, I thought about who I seek to align myself with.  Is it of those with means, status, power?

Here in the Psalm it says that it is the poor, the plundered and the needy for whom the Lord will rise. It is the needy the Lord will keep safe and protect. 

If this is the demographic for whom God says He will rise, would it not BEST behoove me to align myself in keeping with this?

Matthew 5 tells us it is the poor in spirit,
                                       those who mourn, 
                                       the meek, 
                                       those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, 
                                       the merciful, 
                                       pure in heart, 
                                       those who are persecuted.... who are blessed!

Essentially all of humanity is poor, plundered and need, really.  It just looks different for each person. 

There are those who are poor financially and by lack of resources, yes, but there are also the poor in character; poor in spiritual health, poor relationally--a scarcity of intimate, human connection.

There are those plundered of acceptance not just of their stuff, plundered emotionally not just physically.

There are needs of every kind amidst the breadth of humanity. 

It is easiest to see the physical, material needs of others, but what of the spiritual, emotional, mental, and relational needs?

Am I willing to see these in the humanity around me and then not just see it but draw near to it because THIS is what draws God near. And do I really want to be nearer the heart and presence of God?

Oh that my felt comfort, safety and provision would not keep me from drawing close to the poverty and need in others' lives.

Thank you, God, that you come near to me in MY poverty and lack.  There truly is none like you.