Sunday, September 13, 2015

God's Not Dead

Today I watched God's Not Dead. A compelling plot. I loved the courage of the college student, the bravery of the young woman who left a domineering and abusive relationship, the unwavering faith of the missionary, whose joy was simply contagious. Most of all, I loved... well, I'll tell you a bit later.

First, I have to confess that the conclusion was a bit neatly wrapped for my pragmatic sensibilities. Not everything was resolved (I know) and I get why there is resolution in the main plot: it's meant to encourage Christians to stand firm in faith, in the face of ridicule, abuse, even sacrifice. Still, I grapple with the realism quotient.

We humans are problems solvers, so we long for resolution. Yet in my life, this is not a daily reality. All is not finally and perfectly resolved. Life is unpredictable, even chaotic.

If I can't have resolution, will I settle for assurance? Assurance that eventually, somehow everything is going to be alright?  I used to pin my hopes on the idea that all will be resolved if I "stay faithful"- until what I'd built my christian existence on evaporated, and my hopes for a nominal, normal christian life were shattered.

The song says, "Whatcha gonna do when the bottom falls out and you're left with nothing but your fear and your doubt to hold you? Who will hold you?" (Francesca Battistelli, Worth it.)

And here's the thing. The loss and the grief and the fear and the doubt are real, and at times, overwhelming. But we are not left alone in them. We are not left gaping, with hope only for an eternity in heaven. When my tidy christian existence was swiftly and summarily incinerated, do you know what was left? The presence of God. The chaff burned away; all those christian maxims and platitudes held no power, and the choice became: fall into the embrace of the One who is Hope, or hold him at arm's length. I had nothing left to cling to but God, himself.  He was enough... and still is. 

 So what did I love most about this movie, God's Not Dead? The question:  

Where do you find your hope?   

I know where I find mine. I do not have all the answers to all of life's problems. I can't prove to anyone that God exists. What I can share is my experience:
When my dreams were in tatters and I was at the end of myself, I cried out "Jesus help me!" and I found  myself cradled.

No judgement, no expectations, only unconditional acceptance and the purest, deepest Love I had ever known.  God is where I find my hope.

~Just Me

Friday, September 11, 2015

Beauty From Ashes

Most Americans remember exactly where we were when we got the news. An attack- right here in the continental U.S. I was teaching in a private school, and the owner pulled me aside. Hushed tones conveyed a frantic message: Today was like no other day. Due to the attacks in New York and D.C., the Dallas Trade center was shutting down for the day, for the safety of it's employees. Businesses all around stopped mid stride. Some students might be picked up early, and some parents might be considerably delayed.

I didn't see the footage until after work; unspeakable scenes exploding across my TV screen. Footage playing over, and over, and over... that which I could not quite process. People running... fireballs and smoke... one collapse, and another...debris mingled with trembling lives... scores of cars abandoned on bridges while their owners fled.

 How could this happen? Who would do such a thing? We were shocked and yet uncommonly united. Differences melted away, and human beings became people, rather than victims. So many stories of heroism and kindness rose from the midst of chaos. 

Two years ago my son's 9-11 homework assignment guided me towards contemplating 'My Positive' regarding 9-11. In 2012, I shared about our bodies store memories, not just in our minds, and the call to care for ourselves emotionally, as well as physically.

Previously,  I had the opportunity to share my process of coming to terms with this tragedy in Stories of Faith and Courage From the Home Front  by Karen Whiting and Jocelyn Green (the October 24th reading).

Each year an anniversary, each a different phase of processing and recovery. Anniversaries can mean celebration, or gaping loss. Today is an anniversary of the call to pray, to process, to connect with God amidst tragedy. 

Isaiah 61:3 tells us that God provides for those who grieve. The author is specifically referring to the destruction of a precious city; a city that, at the time of the writing, still lay in ruins.

Many Americans have seen images of a war zone... can visualize a city in ruins. Yet it was not simply a city that was affected, both then and now. There was much loss, and hearts are still in process, some needing the touch of our Healer to go deeper still.

The good news? Isaiah 61: 2b- 3 Declares that the spirit of the sovereign Lord "provide(s) for those who grieve"  and will "bestow... a crown of beauty instead of ashes". God grants "joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."

 No matter what the devastation-- or where-- there is healing. Wellness is a process, and it takes time- but there is always hope. 

For me, the attacks were personal. Not just because my father in law lives in New York, nor because my family's day to day life changed as a result the attacks. Not because I found out I was expecting our youngest son in the wake of 9-11. It's personal because the enemy attacked on our home territory, and it's compelling because so many heroes stood up that day and made a difference.

I like to think that the kindness and unity and love and decency that flowed from heart to heart that day eclipses the evil the enemy intended. And I believe with all my being that God never fails to give beauty for ashes.

~Just Me