Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My passion....My soapbox

Her name was Merry. I’m not even sure I spelled that right. She was almost 20 and had been unable to do anything alone for the past few years. She was dying of a tumor that had metastasized from her spine. I looked at her as she lay in her hospital bed in a pink lingerie nighty. A nighty most women her age would be using to start a life not to end one. Her weak and formless body slipped around and didn’t even fill out the nighty, but it was all she had to cover her nakedness. It didn’t matter to her. She was fully cognizant of what was going on even though she couldn’t see, and the tumor had taken most of her ability to converse, and control bodily movements. She died two days before I could get back for the funeral.

In the course of one year, I have seen far more tragic deaths in the small community of Palmar Arriba than I have in twenty years following at the heels of my father in church work. I have seen death that tragically left a disabled son behind literally in an empty house with minimal care and no ability to care for self. I have seen death that left four children as orphans in a foreign country without proper documentation of original citizenship to find work. I have seen death that left a mother no longer knowing if she could be deemed a “mother” since she no longer had a child. I have also seen death leave it’s mark upon the cross beam of a wooden home, as one claimed their own life by hanging. Death claims so many lives and leaves the living left to live on. 

I have been thinking a lot about Brittany Maynard and the whole raising of awareness of “death with dignity” and how in many ways our culture tries to glorify the grotesque by eliminating the perceived grossness. In other words, we sterilize and eliminate and neatly package everything. That is what we like to do best. We value a story that we can neatly put in a history book, concepts that we can concretely rationalize, and theory that can be solved. So, when we can’t do it, we must resolve it by eliminating it. For example; what is the cure for a terminal illness without a cure? A pill that will make it so that it wasn’t the illness that took the life, and so the illness can’t run it’s natural course. We outsmart the illness by killing the subject before it can run it’s full course. The humanitarian response is that we are compassionately preserving the person as they were and eliminating the unforeseeable future of pain, allowing the person to make a decision as to if they wish to be a martyr or if they wish to “die with dignity.” Surrender to defeat before the whole country falls. 

We used to believe that the winners were the ones who did not give up, now we glitz over and offer a way out of the long drawn out battle of death and call it; “death with dignity.” It is difficult to step back and have an objective perspective where my personal religious core values don’t take front and center in how I reason this approach to terminal illness. Being a Christian is who I am, it is within my identity. I can be no other, but I can see where a rational mind would need a rational explanation, and I feel sorry for them, but what we have here is not being called what it is... “ugly.” I’ll go out on a limb and call it as it is; sin, and we can’t think for a minute that Christian freedom is freedom to make a decision on ending a life. 

I have been trying to sort out in my mind what makes the death I have seen in the Dominican different from that in the states. When I first started attending funerals here in the Dominican, they were earthy. To be honest, I was afraid I would contract some sort of disease just from being present. Funerals here carry the weight and reality of death. They are disturbing, crud and there is no sense of dignity what so ever. The bodies are not done up and preserved as they are in the states. A funeral here is fast and furious as the heat demands a quick burial. As we all know, a body that is not embalmed will begin to decay, rot, and to smell. As time has passed and I have attended more and more funerals, the earthiness has not passed but my understanding has. These funerals may be without glamor, golden coffins, beautiful tributes of memory, but they do hold love. They hold love that survives death, and carries the loved one to the ground in a wooden box. It is a love that stands in the dirt and is willing make dirty the bottoms of their heels and trims of their robes because in the end, love itself is not packaged neatly but it is as strong as death. 

Now, funerals Stateside have become a difficult concept for me. They are sterile. As I listen to those defending the decision of Brittany Maynard, I can’t help but just feel sorry for the misunderstanding. We are trying so hard to preserve and protect some form of perfection in the states. An image of plastic. We consider a terminal illness that will result in the loss of control in bowels, bladder, and other faculties as a grounds for a decision to die sooner rather than later. So what is to stop us from allowing a child with a debilitating disability, fully dependent upon a caregiver from being allowed to make a decision to take their own life of for the caregiver to decide “enough is enough?” How do we rationally explain that we would permit someone with cognitive ability to decide to “close up shop” before the sun has gone down and not another? What stops us from terminating the life of another if we deem it not worth living or that it might cause more pain and suffering should it remain...oh wait...nothing has stopped us. What is to keep us from going down a path of every man determining for himself what deems a life worth living? Then again; we are on that path. 

 As I look to the poor economic, earthy conditions of the Dominican, I feel sorry for the States. Wealth has given us an idiotic idea that everything must glitter as gold, up unto our dying breath. We can’t accept flaws, and this includes a notion that we can’t accept that anyone might be wrong in a personal decision. We have adopted a “no no...they are fine...just leave them alone....it is their decision.” Fine; it is their decision, but when did we stop counseling, caring, and loving a person in a way that says; “it may be your decision but it affects me too because I love you that much” when did we start to place conditions on love that said, “I will love you till death do us part....unless we find out in five years that we have unreconcilable differences, or after 10 that you aren’t as beautiful as the day I married you” when did our love become so fickle that we would not endure in sickness as in health, remembering that part of the bad is what makes the good. Or as C.S. Lewis’ character played by Anthony Hopkins says in “Shadowlands;”  “Twice in that life I've been given the choice, as a boy and as a man, the boy chose safety the man choses suffering the pain now is part of the happiness, thats the deal.” 

Those who are speaking out for a right to a “death with dignity” still mourn the death of those who “died with dignity.” I have a theory that perhaps an organic death, as ugly as it is provides a process of letting go. Seeing a loved one suffering prepares the living and the dying for a better place, a brighter hope, and a celestial home. It allows the grieving process to be more natural and beneficial. We always suffer, but we suffer more when we respond in selfishness gilded as being “merciful.” We tell people they are brave for enduring with a loved one who chooses to take their own life because they no longer wish to be a burden, nor to suffer the pain of terminal illness. But, what if the caring for the terminally ill is a healing process for the well, and the sufferings of the terminally ill is a gift to those who care. Love comes from both sides; both suffer, but in the end, both receive and know a more full joy and there is more peace in the parting. We fail to understand that suffering produces character, perseverance, and endurance. We fail to follow the advice of those stupid motivational posters that promote strength, endurance, and perseverance in the face of difficulties. Sure we agree with them as long as what is produced is measurable, but when it comes to the end of life, where there is nothing left to do but die, we fail to see the value and merit in that, yet, that is where it all lies. 

Brittany had a chance to receive the care of her mother once more as a child in need. I have no doubt her mother would have relished the bittersweet opportunity to care once again for her only child. She had an opportunity to resolve and show her parents what it means to die well, perhaps not with dignity, but with love. She had an opportunity to recognize that goals are more than a bucket list of dreams and achievements, but can also be a natural running of courses and an opportunity to build character and perseverance, she chose not to. That was her choice, not her mothers, not even her husbands choice who she also made a choice to be “one” with.  

So this is the choice we wish to give society; To remove all pain. To remove all doubt, and to allow a person to be the author of their own story and death. This however fails to acknowledge that others suffer, others are strong where one is weak, and others can rise to the occasion and others are a part of the story. I’m not sure I believe in an autonomous society, or individual for that matter. We depend more on others than we realize. I pray America does not become so isolated and individualistic to the point of every man writing their own law, but then again, I fear we are already down that path. United we stand, divided we fall. We are loosing a sense of communal rejoicing, and communal suffering. We can’t reap the benefits of one without the other. This is why we fight wars together, and celebrate independence together. Shouldn’t it be the same in other areas of life? 
This is my passion and why this blog exists....to encourage the restless until we rest in Him.  

Friday, October 31, 2014

For All The Saints!!!

One of my favorite days in the Church calendar year is tomorrow, and it coincides with a hot ethical issue being posed in our society right now. Brittany Maynard, a 29 year old woman dying from glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer, has made a public declaration that on Nov. 1st she plans to take her life into her own hands and to “Pass peacefully.” Perhaps her plans have changed, but Brittany, Her mother and her husband have all expressed what this means for them. Her husband stated; “Death with dignity allows for people who are in the predicament of facing a lot of suffering to decide when enough is enough.” While Brittany herself said; “I cant tell you the amount of relief that it provides me to know that I don’t have to die in the way it has been described to me.”

There are many who are gently speaking towards what Brittany plans and hopes to do, which has inspired me to give my own two cents worth. There are the brave who suffer the same nasty form of cancer alongside of Brittany and have spoken their words of wisdom. While I know not what it means to dance with the ugly face of terminal illness as it latches on and takes every ounce of life left in the body, I know what it means to be 29 years old like Brittany, and I do know that I am going to die. In fact, I can say with all certainty that I am going to die in the most unglamorous of ways and painful of ways. I know that, because it doesn’t matter what face death takes, it is all ugly and painful. But what is beautiful, is one who looks death in the face and says; “this holds no power over me.”  What is beautiful is one who knows that as humans, there is nothing beautiful about the humanity of our flesh, but what is beautiful is that we can live in this flesh and still obtain righteousness by means of Christ. What makes a marriage beautiful is 50 years of struggle, not one year happiness. What makes a life beautiful, is one that is fought for. What makes that disgusting fluid covered baby kissable is the labor of love involved in bringing it into the world. Love sees past pains of the flesh, and the nasty realities that come with it. This is what makes life beautiful, that One would give up what is most beautiful, and enter into the grotesque sin filled flesh of a human to live, to love, and to die so that we might have life. Does all this give me a platform to speak on; maybe not, but my platform is built upon One who has the final word on death. For that I shall yell all the more loudly; 
1 Corinthians 15:55-57
“O Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I doubt...but This I do know....

It seems to me that it has been a while since I have posted anything but a lot has occurred in my life since the last time I wrote anything. I have been the happiest that I have been in a while. I’m enjoying my work and as they say; sometimes no news is good news. That seems an idiom I have been using a lot lately. There has been a lot of pleasant growth lately. I went through a period of forced, and painful growth where priorities were made, changes were incorporated and views were challenged. I was in the refiners fire, and now I bask in what it is that I have been made for (that is not to say I have arrived). 
It seems like the melancholy falling of the leaves of Autumn brings about a contemplative phase. While I do not know the Fall like I once did, I imagine what it is that I am missing and what it is that I presently have. We all go through seasons in life. Times and seasons that perhaps we would rather not go through. Those seasons always prepare us for something else. There will be great rejoicing in the days to come! Rejoicing comes from a knowledge of where we stand and in Whom we stand. As a tree is rooted in Christ and it flourishes, so do those who are stedfast in Him. Though the storms come and hail beats down and breaks off the branches we realize our own need for the Word, for the Gifts that God gives, and for the understanding of that rich sacrifice which he has already made for us in Christ. 
While I bask in a “spiritual spring” or perhaps in a harvest, I realize that there are others who may be in a “spiritual fall,” preparing themselves for the battles of the cold winter. Being rooted and established in Christ means we live not in a spiritual fast, but a spiritual feasting even when there is famine. While in draught we may not “feel” the present joy of salvation, we can know it is there; a banquet offering life and salvation in meager portions with abundant blessings. Through a small bit of bread and wine we can know and move through those unpleasant seasons of doubt. We can know that we have fellowship in times of isolation, we have forgiveness when we find ourselves bearing down upon ourselves, and we have life and salvation right now. This gives us cause to continually say: Christ is risen! He is Risen indeed!  

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Pleasant Friend to Follow....

I may have said this before, but; throughout the week I attend several services and a Bible study all revolving around the same text for the assigned lectionary reading of the week. This allows me a lot of time to reflect on one specific reading.This past lesson reading was from Ruth. The reading stuck out to me as I also reflected on my last post on Hannah. Like Hannah, Ruth has a message to draw us into, and understand our Lord and His faithfulness as shown to all. 
The words that struck me were the very words my brother and his bride had chosen for the reading for their Wedding. Beginning with the words; “Where you go, I will go...” Ruth makes it known to her mother-in-law that she is ready to deny herself and all she is to take on the identity of another. When I thought about these words and how they apply to my life I found great comfort in them. With an uncertain future and a long road ahead of me, I admit that I don’t always have the conviction of faith like Ruth. I forget that the very one who holds all my tomorrows is the very One who died where I should have died. He was buried where I should have been buried, and has also in the midst of all this given me a future worth living. Recently, I have been contemplating a life very different from what I grew up to know. A life away from family and friends, and in a culture different from what I have always known. While intimidating at first, I came to realize that no matter the difference, change, distance and difficulties for lack of control or knowledge of how things will be, One thing never changes. The one constant in my life allows me to enter into a boat in the midst of a storm. The One who calls the earth into being calms the storms and holds my unseen future in his hands in a way that reminds me that there is a calm in the storm. The calm comes along side of me and says; “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go, where you lodge I will lodge.” When friendless, He is our friend, when barren he fills our arms, when lost he is our way. He proves this in the stories of our past, in the Old testament and in all of history. We need nothing more than the God of Naomi to be our God, to look to the cross and know that death cannot part us from Christ; the God of all the living.  

Ruth 1:16-17
“Entreat me not to leave you,
Or to turn back from following after you;
For wherever you go, I will go;
And wherever you lodge, I will lodge;
Your people shall be my people,
And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die,
And there will I be buried.
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If anything but death parts you and me.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Manger for Hannah's Drunken Cries.

For a while I have been studying the barren Hannah of 1 Samuel 1 as if it were a story to teach me to be faithful in order to receive God’s blessing. I sometimes thought that if I could pray like Hannah, perhaps God would listen. Maybe I just need to abandon all my pride and pray shamelessly like I’m drunk, and then God will know that I mean business about the things I am praying for. Or maybe, if I promise him my firstborn child He will grant me those desires of my heart. 
Recently I found that Hannah’s story has proven to be a comfort to a dear friend who has experienced two miscarriages in a very short timeframe. This made me think that perhaps it isn’t as much about “me” and my prayers, but us, and our story. I realized that there is beauty when the same story can comfort two women in two very different positions in life. We are both drawn into the same story as we are both drawn into the same cross and as we both have the same story of Salvation. The story of Hannah began to draw more color and meaning when understood as a promise and not a formula. 

If God fills the hungry with good things, how much more strength will he and has he shown with his arm to the barren like Hannah? It may be that the barren may remain barren in this life, but God filled a manger so that the fruits of his salvation might be made known throughout all generations. We bear a promise of salvation and a common story there in. We share in the story of Hannah, Sari, Leah, Rebecca, and Mary even if our prayers for children aren’t granted. While Christ is our ultimate source of healing, life and salvation, we find comfort in these stories knowing that even with an ultimate plan, God still blessed the lives of these women. He was still mindful of them, just as He is with us. So it is in these stories of bareness where we learn to look more to Christ and less to the individual. We then live more with the perspective of drawing close to the cross of Christ and to the manger that Christ entered to fill every void in our lives.  

1 Samuel 1:12-14New King James Version (NKJV

And it happened, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli watched her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk.  So Eli said to her, “How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!

Thursday, May 29, 2014


Today I awoke in the apartment of a friend who I became connected with in one of the strangest and most beautiful ways. I met her in another country at a conference for a few days. We clicked and she later came and visited me in the Dominican Republic, and last night she opened her home up to two traveling missionaries(a.k.a. me and one other missionary). It was a very brief stay, and even though our periods of being together have often been brief, it is as if we have known each other all our lives, and there is always the assurance that we will see each other again. This week, I have said, “goodbye” to many friends. Not for the first time, but nonetheless it has still been very difficult. Today I also had to say, “goodbye” to a fellow missionary who I had been traveling with since we left the Dominican Republic. While I know I will see her again, the weight of the farewell hit me as I was driving away. There is never a doubt that I will see these friends again but there is a pain within me every time the reality of “goodbyes” and “farewells” sink in.
 While as Christians we share the hope of a glorious reunion in heaven, it doesn’t change the fact that while we live in these broken bodies here on earth, we will continually face the partings of friends and families. I must admit that I thought with time they would get easier. But as fatality has made itself known in saying farewell to friends and family, the reality of goodbyes becomes tinged with a bit of morbidity. I am also beginning to realize that the more I open up and love the deeper the pain of partings becomes. In the midst of all these goodbyes I was reminded today of a great “goodbye” that the disciples endured. 
In celebrating the ascension today I reflected on the connection between my own “farewell’s” and those of the disciples. In my journey home today I kept thinking; “How many more times am I going to have to endure this?” Obviously; as long as I continue to open myself up to others, it will go on for as long as I live, until that day when others will be saying “goodbye” to me. The idea of this left me empty, with a sense of there being a bottomless pit and a sensation of endless falling. “How long!? How many more goodbyes? How many more heartbreaks?” Then I thought about the disciples. What a strange, sad parting the ascension must have been. Sure, there would have been joy at knowing that their Redeemer lives and because their Redeemer lives they too would live again. However, wasn’t the blood bath in which they initially said “goodbye” as their rabbi and teacher was taken from their presence enough? Now they had to do it again. Now they had to watch Him be taken from them again. Now they had to discover how to move forward without their great teacher present. Perhaps they wondered how real the past forty days were. If they had in fact lived it and not just woken from a very long dream. Now, they had to start all over again; but not without a helper. This same helper comes to us and binds us all together in our baptism. He makes us One and promises us a joyful reunion in heaven for each of the faithful who die within the grace of God. We ourselves and the disciples have hope, and while we may be cleaved for a time from one another, we are never without hope. We have Christ and all His promises and truths that He gives us in His word. So in the midst of cleaving, we can cling to the cross and remember all we have received one for all in the sacrifice of Christ. We now have fellowship not only with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirt, but with all the company of heaven. So, the more painful partings we endure in this earth give way to a greater joy of many more joyful reunions.   

John 14:18
I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Don’t look back....don’t even look at the clock

When I was in high-school I had an uncle who had schizophrenia. He would do things that didn’t always make sense to the considerably sane mind. One Christmas when I was in high-school he gave me an expensive bottle of perfume. Being the sensible girl that I am I took it back the store that he got it from and exchanged it for a really nice watch. He called me up a week later and asked me how I liked the perfume, I looked I my watch and said; “Oh, I like it!” 
A year later for my birthday I asked for a cell phone. I got my first cell phone my senior year of high-school (yep...I was ruined) it was a little brick. The first official call I got was from my father. I excitedly answered and he said; “Katie! Is your sister there?” I said with gaiety at having received my first phone call, “well she is driving, why don’t you just talk to me!” He said, “Well, you guys need to go to your grandmothers house, your uncle Bill has died” What a first phone call! The same uncle who gave me the “perfume/ watch.” That summer a day before entering into college the battery on the watch died. 
I used that watch all through culinary school. I would take it off and thread it through the button hole on my chefs coat to keep track of time on breads, tasks, and competition projects. Other days I would take it off and thread it through my tank top strap or my shoe laces so I could go for a run. After Culinary school My grandmother died and so did the battery in my watch. I changed the battery and went on to another track in life. I went to Concordia Seward to study to become a deaconess. I bought a bike! (No that isn’t an A.D.D. joke!) I would take my watch off and attach it to the handle bars to avoid a tan line. 
I distinctly remember driving to Fort Wayne and passing a Wal-Mart on the highway when my watch stopped. I was keeping close track of time so that I arrived at “The Fort” on time. I pulled over to take a quick break and change the battery. I took it to the jewelry counter and the kind lady played around with it and pushed the lever inward and it started again! We both had a good laugh about it. My bad...I just had it in my head that this thing goes out whenever I am making major life changes. The next day, I woke up in my own room in Fort Wayne Indiana with a massive Theological journey ahead of me and a dead battery in my watch. I took it to a special battery place, they offered for only $15 a lifetime security that said they would replace the battery in my watch for free (apart from the $15 payment) for the life of the watch. I inquired of the various locations of this special battery place and declined the offer and decided to just pay the $5 to have the battery replaced. I was on my way with a fully functioning watch. The following summer I did what I call “Watch watching.” I was in a job that caused me to constantly look at my watch and wait and hope for the next break, or better yet, for when I would be free (you know you have been there!). 
I used that same watch to calculate the time difference between New England and NE, and when it would be appropriate to call my friends on Skype. I got into another “Watch watching” job in England, and then I got into Chaplaincy where I divided the hands on my watch between “tea time” “visiting hours” “team meetings” and “charting.” That summer I went home with a new future before me. The battery died. I changed it, and went on my merry way. 
That watch sits on my desk now, may she rest in peace. Last Christmas I got very ill and I had to go to the doctor in the Dominican. I had to have an x-ray taken and went into a tiny room with a technician, he shoved me into a bathroom no bigger than a tiny closet and asked me to take off anything with metal; there went my watch. I dropped it on the floor and the glass cracked and the hands just twitched like a dead cockroach (a little ironic). There are so many little battery places on the streets of Santiago that I took it to one of the little street vendors. The kind sir fixed it for 50 pesos (a little more than 1 USD) and said if it stopped working to bring it back to him. Well...for it to “stop working” it would have had to worked properly in the first place. 
I decided to give my watch the dignity of an honorable discharge and put it on the shelf. I tried to replace it with another watch that only lasted a week. I gave up time. I gave up tracking time. I gave up placing significance on the death of a battery and decided the time is now! Our lives are changing every day. By the grace of God, I face a new adventure every day that my watch couldn’t even keep track of. I would be replacing batteries everyday were there merit in my theory. I discovered that my one eye on the past and one on my watch was no longer working. I was given the grace of a broken watch so that I would stop looking down and start looking up. Now the clock just is in my life, it is not my life. Now time is only an idea not a lord. Sometimes the things my uncle did, didn’t make sense, but he taught me something very precious in the bottle of expensive perfume that he gave me. Sometimes stopping and smelling the roses should not be exchanged for sensibility. Time runs out, batteries die, and in the end what was it all for? The woman who washed Jesus feet understood the urgency of sharing in a beautiful thing. With a broken watch and a lesson hard learned over the past 12 years, I press on knowing that what we have been given is this moment, and this day to be used for the glory and the honor of the One who gave up everything for a time to save us for eternity! 

Mark 14:7-9

New King James Version (NKJV)
For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Marked by the blood of THE Lamb

I was reading my treasury of Daily prayer...as I do in the mornings...and I read a text this morning that I think we have all read several times and glazed over. Within the Exodus we hear many times of God “testing” his people. We even hear of it in Genesis where God “tests” Abraham.  Sometimes we even talk about it in our lives and in our little circles saying things like; “God is / was just testing me” or “the silence of God is just a test to see if I’m trusting Him or not” or even when we talk of others, “Job was tested.” For whatever reason this has always rubbed me the wrong way. The Hebrew verb can also be translated using the English words; try, prove, or tempt. I would venture to say that most of us think of this verb in connection to the Devil, and we confess in the sixth petition of the Lord’s prayer; “God, indeed tempts no one?” In addition, we at times tempt, try, and test God often in our own lives, as did the children of Israel, provoking God to action, most times in anger. Perhaps the notion of God doing to us what we do to him and the devil does to us is difficult to swallow because it is difficult to imagine a loving God doing what we sinners do in malice. 
Perhaps ‘God testing” rubs because I used to cheat on tests, (I started and stopped that in the second grade) or perhaps it is because I hate tests, or maybe it is because I always think that whoever is giving the test is secretly out to get me. I have never had a very positive perspective on tests. I get nervous, I choke, I forget everything I should know or that I once had committed to memory. Tests in my mind have been a “make or break” deals. The worst of all the subjects for me was spelling. I can only hear out of one ear, so when covering homophones I just grabbed a shovel and a plot of land and started digging because I knew I was going to die, and I didn't want to be "that student" who raised her hand after each word and said; "Could you repeat that in another sentence?" So, going back to God then; as one who “tests.” I think the problem in my perspective and perhaps for others, is we think there is a mark with all tests. You study, you take the test, you pass or you fail, done. God however, doesn’t work like that. He continually tests and not for a mark or grade. He continually places us in situations where we can look to Him and trust, or look to ourselves and see what happens. It isn’t to prove anything to Him, it is only to show us. Just like with the children of Israel wandering through the desert. He continually tested them not to prove their worthiness of entering into the promised land. No, he already selected them to enter the promised land. God is faithful, and committed. The teacher knows his subject better than the students. He gives them these little tests to show them just how faithful He truly is. So they can know for their future wanderings that He does as He says He will. He tests, so that we know Him better and so that we do not have to test Him. He examines us and our hearts so that He Himself can know how to teach us better of Himself. He shows us our sin, to show us our Savior, and He tests our very being so we know what we might become, but only in and through Him.
I find it interesting that there really isn’t a “pass” or “fail” in God’s testing. Sure the Israelites and many of the Patriarchal fathers turned their back on God when they needed to be trusting Him, but the beauty is that it isn’t a fail because God is still faithful and uses those moments to teach us. Our greatest fail was in not listening and trusting His words that He breathed on us in creation. But our greatest gain is learning that our failures are blotted out by the very Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The very One who took the test in our place, and completed it in all faithfulness as only God could do. Every test is gain as we look to the one who washed us clean and made us white. In Christ we have one who goes before us, and completes what we otherwise would fail. He makes our bitter waters sweet, He promises us healing and cleansing from our sins, and He feeds us with His very body and blood. To quote my supervising pastor at the end of every one of His sermons; “Thanks be to God, for this Jesus Christ! Amen!” 
Exodus 15:25-26 So he cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When he cast it into the waters, the waters were made sweet. There He made a statute and an ordinance for them, and there He tested them, and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I am the Lord who heals you.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Fighting Against Death

Today was difficult. I cried my make up off and it didn’t take many tears to do that, but even still...it was the first time I cried this much in and among my friends and deaconess students. One of our deaconesses sent me a message to let me know that a woman we had been visiting quite regularly had gone severely ill. This morning I received the call that she had passed away early in the morning and they were trying to find enough money to get the body from the hospital to the home. I have written on funerals before and how they have to burry the body immediately so I have explained that things go quite quickly. 

While the deaconess students and I are all still learning together how these things work and how we communicate the Gospel in the midst of pain and suffering, we know in one another the unity of Christ that carries us through these difficult events. The woman who died left four children behind, and their pain was made known. They suffered for not being able to stop the effects of sin and death upon their mother. My friends; the deaconesses, suffered for not being able to stop the pain of what that death would bring. I suffered to see the tears that rolled down both the children’s faces, and my friends faces. I suffered because it rendered me helpless. My heart has held many people up in prayer as sin has played it’s nasty final card of death, and every time I feel so powerless. Yet every time my arms are held in those of one who is carrying a cross much larger than mine, I am reminded; here God has given us, one to the other so that He can be made known, and I am humbled and honored. 

As I watched both the children and my beloved friends, I saw them fight against death while holding the promise of eternal life within their hands. Here a mother had left her children, yet God has not. God remains present in His word, and in the Body of Christ.  Here in the final days of lent, just before Palm Sunday, a mother no longer walks the lenten path of repentance and reflection on her saviors death, but she lives in the light of the resurrection. She lives to sing the Easter hymns now while we remain to sing the lenten ones. She lives to praise her Savior face to face. Tears may flow and doubts, worries, and sadness linger over our heads and block the light of the blistering sun but not the heat itself. Yet; we hold the light of the world and all His promises, and we support and love one another in these promises. Because He lives we too shall live. Because He lives, we cling to those promises in our veil of tears.

Christ Is Risen, Christ Is Living:
1.)Christ is risen, Christ is living, Dry your tears, be unafraid!
Death and darkness could not hold Him, Nor the tomb in which He lay.
Do not look among the dead for One who lives forever more;
Tell the world that Christ is risen, Make it known He goes before.

2.)If the Lord had never risen, We’d have nothing to believe.
But His promise can be trusted: “You will live, because I live.”
As we share the death of Adam, So in Christ we live again;
Death has lost its sting and terror, Christ the Lord has come to reign.

3.) Death has lost its old dominion, Let the world rejoice and shout!
Christ the firstborn of the living, Gives us life and leads us out.
Let us thank our God, who causes Hope to spring up from the ground;
Christ is risen, Christ is giving Life eternal, life profound. 

1.) ¡Cristo vive, fuera el llanto, los lamentos, y el pesar!
Ni la muerte ni el sepulcro lo han podido sujetar.
No busquéis entre los muertos al que siempre ha de vivir, 
¡Cristo vive! Estas nuevas por doquier dejad oír.

2.) Que si Cristo no viviera vana fuera nuestra fe:
mas se cumple su promesa: ¨Porque vivo, viviréis.¨
Si en Adán entró la muerte, por Jesús la vida entró:
no temáis, el triunfo es vuestro: ¡El Señor resucitó!

3.) Si es verdad que de la muerte el pecado es aguijón, 
no temáis pues Jesucristo nos da vida y salvación
Gracias demos al Dios Padre que nos da seguridad,
que quien cree en Jesucristo vive por la eternidad.   (LSB #479)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

For he was drawn out of the water....

He said my name! He smiled at me! She ran to me! She yells my name and stands up for a hug. All these things may be seemingly ordinary, but they carry much weight for me. In our group home are six children with varying disabilities. Some can’t walk well if at all, others can’t talk, and one can’t hear. In all this I find it amazing that at times they are mindful of me! I can’t tell you how my heart and face light up to see Ramona running to come give me a hug. A girl who is particular about having “motherly” figures around chose me! Then there is Estephanie, who is a beautiful young woman in a wheel chair until she sees me, then she lifts herself out of it and gives me a hug. She wants nothing more than to share her life with me and to have me walk alongside of her...me! Moises is a favorite. He wasn’t always. In fact, it took me a long time to notice him and to understand why he was always hitting me. I thought he didn’t like me. But today, when he saw me, he gave me this beautiful smile, just absolutely gorgeous, then he hit me. It is his way of playing. One day I could have sworn he said my name. 

All of these things overwhelm me with honor. That they would rise above their disabilities to acknowledge me! Many times we think our work is to acknowledge the least of these and to serve them, but there is a great reversal here. I can’t fully explain it, but that these beautiful people would show something to me, and share something that is in them that most people don’t get to see; that is precious. Some people can’t get past the spit and drool, some people can’t get past the timidity of each child. Some people don’t wait long enough to see the little boy in the corner merging to play around. Some people can’t handle the broken because they see something they can’t fix, or something that society has told them is wrong. If I ever thought I was condescending to get past these difficult barriers, I was sadly mistaken. The children have condescended to me, and not in a haughty, arrogant demeanor. They respected me and loved me not for having deserved it, but because they are free to do so. They acknowledge me, not because I stoop to their level, but because they have risen to mine. I am humbled by these children, and amazed at the beauty and power God has displayed in them. I am also honored that I can be a voice for the wisdom that they have to give and to share! God is truly using the weak things of this world to make known his mighty deeds.
Luke 1:51-52
He has shown strength with His arm;
He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones,
And exalted the lowly.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

To my Katie....

To my Kaite, On the occasion of her departure for the Dominican Republic. I love you. You use this book well. Dad

My dad gave me his Minister’s Prayer Book the day I left for the Dominican. Both law and gospel in that sweet little message. I hate to say it, but, the jacket sleeve explains why I perhaps have not been able to “use this book well.”  It says; “The aim of this book is to deepen and discipline the minister’s life of private devotion.”  Perhaps I have not been able to use the book as a deaconess intern but I have used it as a daughter. On the jacket cover where I found the purpose of the book I found a piece of tape to preserve and hold down the jacket flap. On the following page where my father wrote his note I also find his library seal. Throughout the book are his markings, notes, highlights, and impressions of where paper clips once were. It even still has a mixed smell of his cologne and office. All of these are little reminders for me.
To “use this book well” I suppose I should find value in it and use for it. As I just stated, perhaps as a deaconess intern it isn’t as valuable, but as a daughter it is a treasure. I was a daughter before I was a deaconess intern and so for that it influences the type of deaconess I am to be. As I thumb through the pages I find myself gravitating towards those parts which my father has highlighted. I read them and know at some point for one reason or another my father clung to them. He was once where I am now, his hands once pressed these pages. That he would give this book to me as a comfort says that it offered much consolation for his personal devotional life and for the sharing of the word with others. I cherish every mark, every note, every folded page not for the author but for the previous owner. Even if the book itself has nothing to offer me, every bit of it that reminds me of my father reminds me how much I am loved by him. For that alone I feel I can say I have used it well. 
My heavenly father is much the same. He gives me all his comfort, all his promises, all of his word and claims me for His own though baptism. He also gives me the law in order to give me the gospel. In His word He says; “You use this book well” so that he can tell me “I love you.” We hear His word, we know the law upon our hearts, but do we understand His communication of love? Do we see how precious His seal upon us is in times of difficulty? Do we treasure the trials He gives us to draw us closer to Him? We may not always see a treasure disguised as something normal and irrelevant. In our baptism we have been blessed beyond reason and comprehension. We hold something so normal as water and word, and receive something so grand that we can turn to every day in trials, griefs and difficulties. Then in our final moments, we can know without a doubt that it is ours. We hold all the riches of heaven as real as we hold a thin wafer and drink some wine. He gives it to us, and he gives us the means by which we may know it without a doubt. He has equipped us for the journey, and promises to be forever with us. 

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.

“There are greater honors and higher ranks, but there is no other office that refreshes the weariness of the heart and brings comfort to the poor and speaks peace to the dying and shows a lost world the way home.” -Hermann Bezzel 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DA ME!!!!!!!

Ellos dicen a mi: 
“Da me” cuando tengo nada
“Da me” cuando estoy cansado
“Da me” cuando estoy vacio
Tu me dices:
“Tomalo” cuando estas solo
“Tomalo” cuando no hay nada
“Tomalo” Cuando estas cansada
“Tomalo” cuando estas vacio y descansas en me
Dios es mi luz y mi salvacion a quien temere

This is my attempt at poetry in another language. I have been writing poetry for several years and have 108 pages of writings. Little of my writing; in my opinion, is good. Most of my poetry is just embarrassing. Few people know of my practice because I refuse to share it. The above poem I share because it is easy to do for the fact that it is in another language. I have found there are many things that are easier to do in another language. For example; looking like an idiot and saying stupid stuff. I do it every day. Another thing that I can do is pull the "but....I didn't know because I didn't understand." Probably one of the greatest things about speaking in a foreign language is that you can adopt a new personality. Here, people love abundantly always greeting with a hug, asking about family and saying “Te quiro Mucho!” I am rarely an affectionate person. I depend upon my warm smile, and my bubbly personality to allow people to feel as though they have received a warm hug so that I don’t have to awkwardly draw close to them. I have ways of keeping a safe distance. I also depended upon that same smile to say “I love you” so that I wouldn’t have to choke on the words as I awkwardly say them. All this is to avoid “awkwardness.” 
What is awkward in allowing someone to know your sincere sentiments towards them? Since when did it become weird to give a hug? What made me ever think that I should withhold the words of “I love you” from someone I do love? While it is beautiful that another culture and language makes it easer for me to express my emotions and wear them for all to see, it makes me sad that the most beautiful sentiments that I have to share would remain hidden in word and deed. Don’t worry, I’m not about to share 108 pages of poetry, but I do wish to share my double Latin American personality with you. 

There is an outpouring of love that comes with faith. There are times when words aren’t needed and love needs to be shown in action. In fact, the greatest display of love was quite possibly the most horrific, awkward and most rejected. Veiled as a foreigner in human flesh; the son of God came to us, spoke with the language of the people, and learned our ways as his own. Then when he had shown love in every way possible, he emptied himself and became obedient to death. A touch, a word, an action in love carries the most powerful affect when accepted and the most detrimental when rejected. Having been drained of all he physically had to give he took on the punishment of death so that we would not have to know such chastisement. He loved us in ways we couldn’t possibly fathom. He expressed it in ways that we fail to. He continues to love and communicate that love to all his children in the service of the word and the sacraments. What if his love had been withheld for the awkwardness that it carried? Because he loved us, we too can love with reckless abandonment and know that even when emptied of all that we have, He fills us with his abundant love, and his mercies are new every morning.  

Mark 12:29-31
New King James Version (NKJV)
29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’[a] This is the first commandment.[b] 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no other commandment greater than these.”