Wonder. A sense of amazement; that for one second everything is as it should be; a sense that maybe this life really is full of magic. Or at least it’s meant to be full of magic.
Things are meant to be a certain way, and we know it. We know it when things are wrong and feel the magic when things are right. The sparkle seeps through the cracks of this broken world and we get teasing tastes of glory, of rightness, of shalom. Encore! We want more.
I long for all to be right — in the world, in my heart, in friends and family’s lives, in our bodies. These are not how they were meant to be. And I long for it to be made right.
Wonder increases longing.
But while I long and wait for Jesus to make all things as they should be, I also rejoice that He’s already come — into this cracked and glittering world and into my very heart. I have Him. I long for Him to come yet rejoice that He is, in part, already here.
“He stretches out the north over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing. He wraps up the waters in His clouds, And the cloud does not burst under them. He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters at the boundary of light and darkness.
Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear of Him! But His mighty thunder, who can understand?” (Job 26)
These are only the edges of Creation, yet we still stand amazed. We hear only a whisper of the Lord’s greatness, yet we still marvel. What’s the rest of it like?
It is good to realize how much we don’t know. It is good to be amazed by the 1% of things that we see and even more amazed by the 99% of things that we don’t know about.
And a month and a half ago we walked among tombs of familiar south Louisiana last names. We located our own family names carved into stone.
We went to bury her — their mother, my grandmother — and to cry together. We remembered something that I think she knew well: her life was not ending but instead changing. The change left us sad for us, but rejoicing for her.
I hate it and rage against it. As Nancy Pearcey says, “Death rips apart what God intended to be unified.” Namely body and soul, which were meant to be one.
At the death of Lazarus, Jesus felt some sort of furious indignation (according to the Greek) at the tragedy. What tragedy? I would imagine not only the passing of his friend but also seeing the reality of his creation broken by death.
This was not part of the design. And we feel the pain of it deeply. Death is not to be celebrated.
Yet at the same time, I feel a familiar acceptance of death. It is our lot for this time on earth and we are headed for it, wrinkles and all.
Death is a door, a seed, and — most importantly — death is conquered by Jesus. Literally no match for Jesus Christ. And he is not far removed from our suffering.
He brought his own body back from the dead and he’s bringing us and our bodies and creation along with him.
“The creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21)
Death. I hate this thing that we were not designed for. But with Christ, it is not my greatest enemy and somehow it’s okay to embrace our mortality for the time being.
So we grieve, we hug, we cry, we lament the ripping apart. Yet with hope and freedom in Christ who went ahead of us. And, of course, we LIVE joyfully in the here and now!
Who is it that has made a covenantal promise with the sky, marking the faithful rhythms of night and day?
Who pulls and pushes the tide of the sea and sets in motion the waxing and waning of the moon?
Who decreed the orderly laws of nature that govern the coming and going of seasons with unbreakable consistency?
Who has designed the function of organs and written meaning into the smallest cell?
“The Lord Almighty is his name.” (Jeremiah 31:35)
It is he “who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar.” (Jer. 31:35)
He says, “If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth…” (Jer. 33)
He has. We live by the rising and setting of the sun and his covenant with it.
He says, “If you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with the night so that day and night no longer come at their appointed time…” (Jer. 33)
We cannot. We lean our heads back to look at the sky, awed yet powerless.
And so we say, “Draw praises from us here in this cathedral of creation. Beneath this starry dome awaken our adoration. In this place where we are so very small — and yet so greatly loved.” (Doug McKelvey)
We are loved. The covenant-making one has come for us as well.
On Sunday I challenged myself to write a post every day this week about things I am thankful for. It is now almost midnight on Tuesday, so you can see how that’s going.
But, I want to express my gratitude anyway. No… more than express it. I want to call gratitude up from within my heart; stoke the fires of thankfulness. I want it to be more than a cursory “Wow, I am so privileged.”
I want there to be genuine, joyful, amazed gratitude at beauty that I know, behold, have, see.
And this practice of beckoning grateful hearts is even more necessary this year. There is so much to be grateful for and our beings are thirsty for the soul-anchoring, heart-stilling, joy-inducing effect of giving thanks.
This year we need to be more thankful than ever!
We need to mine the hardships for the beauty that comes from ashes.
We need to give extra thanks for the people we love so much.
We need to acknowledge the incredible gifts we’ve been given and trace every single one back to the Giver.
Nothing to be thankful for this year? Quite the contrary!
Everything to be thankful for.
We have a different perspective to know a bit more about how to rightly value and treasure what we have.
We have everything that was taken, which has taught us, grown us, emptied us, refined us.
We have the One who daily fills us and sustains us with life, gifts, and grace that we hardly even have eyes to see.
May we receive eagerly and willingly with empty hands and grateful hearts.
A few weeks ago, Cáceres put up a memorial for those who passed away from corona. I personally know more than one person who will stand before it and mourn for their family members.
Death is never welcome. We want life and we want it to the full and it’s right to long for that.
During lockdown, for 48 days I leaned out of our window to clap for the medical personnel who were, as they say in Spanish, “at the foot of the canon” — fighting for life, watching suffering, and holding hands with death. I thought of the nurses I know and love and they are plenty, both in the States as well as Spain.
Forty eight times I clapped for them and more than that I prayed for them and checked in on them.
Then one day I saw the video of someone I know being wheeled victoriously out of the ICU while all the medical staff did their own clapping, celebrating that one victory over corona.
We celebrate life because we were made for it. We were made for fullness of joy and vibrant life and wholeness.
I’ve thought more about death — in general, of friends or family dying, of my own death — in the past five months than I have in a long time. I hope I’m not the only one.
This virus threatens to take our health and even our very breath; send us to the grave early, if you’ll pardon the frankness.
I was meant to inhabit this physical, 5’5″ body for a number of years. But, my days are counted. I have a birth date as well as a death date. I will grow old and get wrinkly skin.
If I don’t die of corona, I will die of something else. It takes a while for this to sink in and I don’t love to ponder it, but we must.
GB Caird says, “All men must die, and the question mark which death sets over their existence is just as great whether they die late or soon, alone or in company, violently or in their beds. Their ultimate destiny is not determined either by the moment or by the manner of their death… But by the opening of the heavenly books and by the true and just judgments which proceeds from the great white throne. The idea that life on earth is so infinitely precious that the death which robs us of it must be the ultimate tragedy is [idolatry].”
Jesus is the one I want to walk me through the gates of death and represent me before that throne. We must have more to stand on in life than a probability that we will survive this crisis or the cheap encouragement that “everything will be okay.”
Everything in our lifetime on earth might not be “okay” and you or I or someone we love might not live another day.
Although that uncertainty is actually how life always is, this odd, unknown virus puts us face-to-face with our humanity, our fragility.
We feel deep in our bones that we were made for fullness of life, not death. We were made for a perfect, flourishing, rich garden. I take comfort in the fact that the God who created us for that full life swooped down in human flesh to taste human suffering, to die and turn death into merely a seed that brings life.
I find myself afraid of the process of dying, but not death itself.
We westerners have a limited perspective on the supernatural. In general, we have eyes to see our physical life and little else.
It’s worthwhile to admit that we know so little. What if death isn’t the end — what if it’s the beginning? What if this life is not the most precious thing but merely a shadow of real life?
I’m currently studying the book of Revelation. That, combined with reading CS Lewis’ Space Trilogy, has helped me begin to imagine what is happening in the kingdom we are often unaware of and with the King we dare to ignore. Let’s peek behind the curtain and catch a glimpse of what we can’t see with our earthly eyeballs.
There is a King on a throne who is wiser than I can imagine. When I’ve chosen the privilege of connecting with him, trusting Him, and joining His kingdom, fullness of life starts now and continues even after I change this body for a brand new one.
In Christ, the one who conquered death, death can not steal from me.
““The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – Jesus (John 10:10)
I rolled out of bed with a headache this morning. Things are starting to catch up to all of us at this point.
The world continues to reel and we are dizzy with the spin of it. I ache for my affected friends and pray and continue to sit in my home.
My back is rebelling against all that time sitting combined with the unusual living room workouts I’ve been doing. Can’t sit and can’t stand and “I can’t wait until I can go for a walk to work out the kinks,” I thought to myself. Instead, I got creative with a standing desk for today and mentally braced myself for a few more weeks of this.
It is easy to feel as though this life we are living right now, this daily movement confined to a few hundred square feet, is a sort of half-life. Like life is on hold until things return back to “normal.”
But it’s not on hold! This very day is my life. This is no half-life! This is the real deal — today.
Henri Nouwen wisely said, “While optimism makes us live as if someday soon things will get better for us, hope frees us from the need to predict the future and allows us to live in the present, with deep trust that God will never leave us alone.”
And so while I long for future wholeness, I live in the present. Maybe a heart full of hope means not thinking about tomorrow much at all — not worrying about the hardships that are sure to come, nor pining with flimsy optimism for the good days we want.
Instead, I should live firmly planted in the present day, the life I’ve been given. I will ground my feet to the earth (or in my case, the floor) that’s beneath them and live this day as I’ve lived all the other ones of my life: with the grace and strength I’m given.
C.S. Lewis gives a great reminder for our overactive minds: ”Remember, one is given the strength to bear what happens, but not the 101 different things that might happen.”
I have strength for this very day and I’ll live it as if it were the realest day of my life! And it is. I was, quite literally, born for this day.
I’ll live this day in the same way and out of the same identity as I’ve lived all my other days. There is strength and mercy for this present day. Tomorrow morning I’ll get more.
“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23)
I heard the click-clacking of high-heeled shoes in the hallway — an eerie sound of normality among such silence and seclusion. Was she going to the grocery store? Probably. There’s really no other place we are allowed to go.
As I sat on my couch with a mug and a Bible, I imagined her: well-dressed like a good Spanish woman, color on her lips, purse on her arm, maybe carrying a grocery bag or wheelie cart. And now, most likely, wearing a face mask.
The streets are mostly empty when I look down from my balcony, but, among the police car that often circulates our block, a handful of cars can be spotted. Maybe they’re hospital staff, headed in to work. There are the occasional dog-walkers and grocery-shoppers, outside to do the only two things we can do outside. The ambulance sirens are loud, no longer hiding among other traffic noises.
And here I sit inside, working on my computer and writing and watching movies and studying the Bible and getting creative with living room workouts and reading in the sliver of sun that hits the balcony. And feeling very helpless.
It’s time for creative love, unceasing prayer, and kindness to my neighbor, which very well may only be the person I’m living with. And maybe most of all, it’s time for a new breed of trust in the Lord.
As I’m forced to embrace my helplessness and frailty right now, I remember that my strength was never the force that turned the universe anyway. I’ve always been helpless (it’s a human trait), but here it is, staring me in the face a bit more than usual.
So I’ll do what I can to creatively help and love those around me, but also really flex my trust muscle — standing on the Rock, putting my eyes on our faithful Jesus, and constantly bringing my burdens, and those of the people I love, to Him.
Then, I’ll keep sitting at home with peace and joy, knowing that Christ can never be taken from our hearts and knowing that He who has given grace over and over will give grace for whatever comes.
“For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” – 2 Chronicles 20:12
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge, and my savior.” – 2 Samuel 22:2-3