Thursday, January 27, 2011

Muddy Waters

Journal for Christa—
There are some things in life that just aren’t going to be easy, and they’re never going to be easy, and that’s just the truth.
I was kind of taken aback today—back to a journal a few weeks ago and the story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. In the biblical narrative, Jesus did hesitate and He did cause Martha and Mary great pain, but He eventually came and He raised their brother from the dead, but—
What if He hadn’t? What if He hadn’t come at all?
Martha said she knew Lazarus would rise at the resurrection—but really, that wasn’t doing much for her in the moment. Sometimes God just seems to let us down. God can seem so very far away, and hope can float away like so much muddy water under a bridge.
One year—years ago when our kids were little—my grandparents came out to my parents’ farm to visit us while we were there. At the time Grandma was really up in years, and she’d kind of get stuck on a topic and repeat herself.
The Farm

Sunrise from the bridge
Now, my parents’ place had a long history for Grandma because it had originally belonged to her parents. It was the farm she grew up on. All afternoon she recounted childhood anecdotes that I only wish I could remember. Then, at one point she got stuck on the creek that passes under a bridge as you first enter the property. “Yeah, lots of water’s gone under that ol’ bridge,” she’d say. Then, she kind of went into herself and periodically repeated her comment with one change: “Yeah, lots of muddy water’s gone under that ol’ bridge.”
Dear Grandma, bless her soul. I’m afraid her fixation became a family saying, and even today when something downright crummy or tragic happens, it’s often referred to as “muddy water under the bridge.”
Much of life is awesome and wonderful. But, there are some things that are just so much stinky, muddy water; and it’s all too easy to let our hope, too, slip through our fingers and float away with the dirt.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why It's Yellow

Journal for Christa—
“Yellow! Yellow? You painted it yellow?”
stated my sister as she peered through the window from the front porch.
“Yes, I painted it yellow.”
A couple of summers ago, we purchased a larger TV and moved the family room downstairs. That kind of left this room on the main floor undefined. For awhile I called it the all-purpose room.
One Thanksgiving I put long tables down the center and served dinner in here. This Christmas it housed the live Christmas tree with all the presents under it, and it became a family room once more. On occasion we’ve pushed back the sparse furnishings and practiced our dance steps in it, but the carpeting really makes that impractical.
This winter I put most of the outdoor furniture in it. And in the summer I move a lone chair close to the sliding glass door where I can see the upper pond when I write.
Even after a year and a half, I guess it’s a room that hasn’t quite found its identity. Jay calls it a room without a purpose. But, I believe in this room. Some day this room is going to be just perfect! I don’t know what it’s going to be yet, but I know that someday I’m going to really like it—and that’s why I painted it yellow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January's Icy Hands

Journal for Christa—
January’s chilling touch can reach out and take hold of me. It also doesn’t help on these wintry days that we rise before dawn and leave work as the sun is setting over the Peak. Some days, some epochs are cold—cold as death.
And Death’s icy hands had taken hold of Martha and Mary’s hearts and Lazarus’ very life breath. Jesus certainly knew of Death’s great tragedy and triumph. As Martha and Mary’s hands wiped away their tears, did He recall that first woman’s hand as it lifted the fruit to her lips? Did He glance in the future at His own hands and foresee the nail prints there?
John could not possibly know as he recounts for us the story.
What John does tell us is that after Jesus wept—for the women? for death? for the penalty it demanded?—He prayed. And in that prayer He emphatically says that the Father always hears Him.
So in the clasp of the cold, when prayer can feel like a breath’s vapor on a cold frosty day, that God, this God, hears all, sees all, and has His hand over all—even when pain chills us to our very souls and would tell us otherwise.

When we believe Him when we don’t feel Him, that’s called faith.

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Journal for Christa—

What will a new year hold?
New adventures, new family members, new decisions--
I guess that’s why it's New Year's
...a time to wrap away some of the past,
to peer into a new reflection pool,
to lift our hands in joy and dance to a new song.
What will this year hold? 
Somehow, I think it will be good. 
(Borkert ’11)

We often focus on goals, outcomes, and ending strong. Endings are important, but when a classic author opens his or her story, there’s usually some little nugget, some obscure, unnoticed comment at the beginning that suddenly becomes very relevant later on. Such is the narrative of the raising of Lazarus in John 11.

It’s easy to envision Jesus lifting His hands and calling forth a Lazarus from the tomb, 4 days dead. But in the beginning, where the sisters send word to Jesus—now, there’s the nugget—the element that makes the climax all the more glorious.  As John tells us the story, he tucks in this little fact: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”

Jesus loved them. Did he wait two days to leave? Yes, He did. Did He cause stress and hurt in their lives? Yes, yes, He surely did. But, Jesus loved them.

I want to start this year knowing that Jesus loves me. There will be waiting. There will be pain. But, He loves me.

Pay attention to beginnings. Happy New Year, Christa.