Lightness of Being

butterflies

Some said they’d noticed that she seemed to be getting tired.

Others were just amazed because she didn’t seem to be slowing down much at all.

Whenever someone shared that they had begun to think it would soon be time, I listened carefully, curious to see what they had seen.

Each time, I heard only those seasonal things – the observations of aging that relate to movement, appearance, etc. The things already familiar to her children; we had been taking note and sharing notes for years.

She had a temper, and folks still called her sweet. I’d seen her fully charged, and I’d seen her weary. And this was true for all the years, traced from my childhood to the current day. I’d seen her revved-up and revved-down. Fragile and formidable.

Many times over the years, she’d share childhood memories, with the joy of remembering and recreating them to share with us. Often, she’d lament that she couldn’t go back to the days when she was the baby of the family. What she always called the innocence of youth.

Sometimes the tone of world-weariness puzzled me, because these were my sweet years of early memory. And after the three of us left home and my father passed away, she admitted to some loneliness and depression. These were most visible in the years right before a seemingly destructive storm relocated her to my home. There she became part of my boys’ sweet years of early memory. Her distress at being relocated from her lifelong hometown gave way to the affirming thrill of discovery, as she began to navigate a new town.

And when she was able to restore her home and move back, she continued to flourish, her faith deepening as she saw her own restoration and that of her hometown around her.

More and more in every conversation, I would hear her say how blessed she was. All the more after an accident led to long recovery from a broken ankle, instead of a fall that would have likely been fatal. In recent years, when she praised God, she did so with increasing awe that he not only cared for her, but that he still found purpose for her here.

She was childlike joy packaged in a woman who was a walking tour-de-force. That was quite a gift. That’s quite a legacy.

Her funeral was amazingly both triumphant and warm, and I was thankful to see each and every one who came to show they cared. My sister and brother, as we loved and lived through this moment together, asked how I was doing. I could honestly say that while sorrow shows up – that each time, it finds my heart filled to standing-room-only capacity with joy. And it is just as quickly crowded out, retreating back through the door.

Joy that so many would celebrate my mom, and celebrate her so well. Joy that I had her so long – long enough to share with my children – and that I had her in the first place. Joy at the forceful impression she made on who we are, those of us in her family and in her community.

So when I asked myself whether I saw any indications right before she died, I only saw … a lightness of being.

In those seasonal changes of aging, I saw the coziness of one who remains warm in winter. She could watch an old TV show and laugh, as though it hadn’t been on earlier that day. She listened pleasantly as I thanked her for encouraging me in a work dilemma, even though her pause made it clear she didn’t recall speaking into the situation with words graced by God’s perspective.

Most of all, each time we spoke, it was how she marveled that she was still here, and that God was so good to her. The words were not new, but the wonder had grown. This was the lightness of being that I saw. And it was the best indicator of a life transition that there ever could be. Because she was genuinely prepared to go home, thankfully more than she realized.

What lightness of being we know, when we allow God to be sovereign. When we begin to trust and give Him glory so.

The lightness of joy.

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The Sharpest Sword

I had seen what it could do. Now it was my turn.

We were at a festival that celebrates the Renaissance period of history, with food and events that match the theme. While chewing on a huge turkey leg and watching a jousting match, we’d gotten a fresh surge of energy, and now we were exploring the shops.

My husband had admired the range of swords, and a worker at the shop invited him to try out his favorite. Behind the shop were bundles of reeds standing up in water barrels. They’d been soaked overnight, and the thick bundles were now dense and heavy.

First, the shop worker took aim. And swung, slicing in one steady, fluid movement. He showed us the swiftly dissected bundle, and reviewed what made the sword so effective and efficient. After giving us a lesson on careful use, he then handed it off to my husband, who readily did the same.

Sword

Now I had the sword in my hand.

I’d been fed. I’d been taught. The sword was sharper than we could have imagined. All I had to do was understand what it could do, and then choose to use it.

There’s a sword that is so sharp it can divide bone and marrow, soul and spirit. You have this sword. And it’s been placed in your hand.

You’ll want to be fed first. The good news is that God’s Word is a sword, and at the same time, God’s Word is a daily bread. You’ll want to be fed with that daily bread. Meaning that you’ll want to taste and see that the Lord is good, first sampling what God has to say to you, and then coming to savor it. And then, when you’re ready to read more than a verse or two, and begin to choose larger portions, you’ll want to sit down to make a meal of it, and then another. You’ll become filled with His love and His wisdom for your life. And you’ll realize with each meal that the joy of the Lord is your strength.

You’ll want to be taught. You can get a lesson on careful use of the word of God, if you seek a conversation with God.

Your prayers may begin with seeking God’s intervention in the circumstances of your life.

As you pray, you will want to remember how God has already intervened in your life, and take time to be thankful. Not only will gratitude honor God as He is due, but thankfulness will renew your mind as to what God can and will do.

As you recall what God can do, God can reveal to you that what He has done reflects who He really is. As you seek to give God a role in your life, God can help you recognize that His role reaches beyond intervention, to sovereignty; that God was meant to be Lord of your life.

And as you realize, in greater and greater detail, who He really is, you realize that all of what He is, is what you need and want most. Realizing that God himself is what your heart is missing, your prayers can then become about seeking His presence – God himself.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 KJV

Understand that God’s Word can divide soul and spirit – defining your spirit as your truest self, which is restored fully by your saving faith in Him; and defining your soul as your mind and emotions. Just as marrow gives life and function to the body’s joints, your thoughts and feelings were never meant to reign over your life, but to be given life and function by your spirit. Your soul, which needs daily healing and restoration, needs to be led by your spirit, which is the essential innermost substance of your existence. And your spirit by faith has a perfect connection to the perfect leadership of God’s Holy Spirit.

In Ezekiel 37, a prophet in ancient Israel shares his vision of what God will do with His people regardless of what state they are in. He gave an eyewitness account of divine restoration far beyond human capacity when God restored dry bones, in a valley of death. In Psalm 23, another prophet named David shares the relationship with God that preserved him and his life, regardless of the valleys he walked through. Here I share my witness to what God can do. I relay to you that hope is never lost, when you place your hope in God.

What happened when it was my turn with the sword? I said I was ready. And I focused – more on what I had learned, than on what was before me.

I took aim, and sliced steady. The bundle fell to the sharp sword.

Take your turn.

A 23rd Psalm Attitude

pupy sweater

My dog Al came looking for me. I was the only one upstairs, and he’s like a sheep herder’s dog, checking up on the flock.

Nah. He’s more like a sheep himself. After gazing into my face, he leaped into my lap and curled up there.

He’s a good sheep – for a miniature schnauzer.

I wanna be like Al.

My dog leaps into my lap because he knows he has a place there. He leans his head back all the way, just to gaze with adoration at my face. I want a 23rd Psalm attitude like my dog Al.

Whatever we’re eating, he wants some. He’s there, as close to the stove, table or dish that we’ll allow. Yes, his dog dish is full, but he’s still eager, for the crumbs we’ll surely drop. After we’re done, he’s allowed to leap up again, where he’s eager to even to sniff the fragrance of what we had.

He knows that staying close means sharing even more in what we’re enjoying.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Freedom from fear — the fear of going without — is the idea that opens this psalm. The rest details tender tending for a sheep. Al, who’s carried, petted, entertained at length by the members of his household, would relate.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

In this psalm and elsewhere in the Word, we get the heads-up that we will face tribulations, and we are glad to get the Word that we will know victory. But that victory is more than the relief we experience when our tribulations are over. It’s so much more, because God also provides us the rest, comfort and peace we need before, during and after those tribulations. He tends us tenderly with healing for our souls – our minds and emotions – and strengthens and soothes our bodies.

In the midst of all this providence we find in the next verse the reason for great trust: our undivided awe for God, who is omnipotent within us and around us.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

God acknowledges and addresses what we face. Enemies stand against us; and we are given time to receive and be strengthened by whatever we need in that day – our daily bread. Disease and injury threaten; and we are fortified, soothed and healed.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Because God is everpresent and eternally faithful, our faith endures. And we always have a place to turn to, a place with Him.

Surely Al knows he has a place to go – a place of goodness, lovingkindness. He has a place to abide, and an abiding trust.

He’s so eager to draw closer. He’s leaping at the opportunity.

Let’s take a leap of faith today.

Compassion: Let it flow

By Michael Gallacher, Glasgow, Scotland (flickr.com) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In the contemporary Christian worship song Mighty to Save, there is a line: “Everyone needs compassion.”

This is true.

I need compassion. You need compassion. And not just the way we usually mean it.

It’s not just that we need to receive compassion, but we need to release compassion.

It is a need – not just an item on a to-do list, in our amateurish quests for self-improvement.

But an actual, hardwired need, because we were designed for that. We were designed to overflow with

everything that God is, most specifically His grace.

It’s His grace that we call out for, when we don’t know what else to say or do.

It’s His grace that we call out for, when we don’t know what else to call out for.

We call out in pain, or loneliness, or weariness, or fear – any number of things.

These are moments of necessity. It’s these times, when we’re pushed beyond our own rediscovered

limits, that our human ability to recognize that ‘this is where I stop, and this is where God begins’ is really

activated.

But, just as important, are the moments in which we release compassion for someone else.

These are moments when compassion is like a dammed-up river, that now can flow through you. And all

that was dry and dusty and littered gets washed. Renewed. Restored.

And prepared. Because you are prepared for the next time someone does show compassion to you. You

are prepared for the next time God is speaking one-on-one to you, and you recognize God’s mercy in

your  life, flowing through your circumstances and your very existence. The riverbed has now been

prepared.

The way has been made.

So let’s release compassion, not because we ought to, or we should.

But because we simply have to.

We simply have to.