Saturday, July 23, 2011

has death won?

Yesterday I got a phone call from my mom two minutes into my morning commute. A couple had been shot close to our home in a car the same color as ours, and she called to make sure we were alive. We are, and I assured her Tim and I were safe and sound.

As I made a left onto the entrance ramp, listening to "Concerning a UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois," I saw a pigeon laying on its belly on the side of the road, slowly turning itself around. The last time I saw a bird like that was a robin I rescued when I was nine. I named him Robbie, and he died the next morning. I started to tear up, and forced them back so I could keep my eyes on the road.

Last night, we heard about the bombing and shootings in Oslo. My heart goes out to the people of Norway, to the country of our great-great-grandparents. May God comfort your souls and give you peace.

It is hard to think about death. A serious reflection on it usually brings tears and distress. What if I lose someone I love? What if I die violently? What if I never get to say goodbye?

Death is distressing because we were not created for it. We were made to live forever. But we sinned, and now death is the doorway to eternity, whether that leads us to separation from God or unity with Him forever.

Death cuts us off from everything we have ever known, from the people and community we love, the places we cherish, the joys we cannot seem to live without. But it also reunites us to the ones who have gone on before, to the One we walked with in the garden at the beginning of time.

I would be lying to say death doesn't scare me silly at times. I'm not very bereaved, and it is difficult to know that I will lose people I love. In some ways I think that is ok. Knowing that death will come sooner or later, I want to live life to the fullest now. More importantly, I want to share with everyone around me the secret to eternal peace, love, joy, and life. Jesus Christ.

That being said, I don't want to fear death. Death comes to all and I know Jesus, the Savior. He conquered death by rising again. And He will not allow me to slumber in the ground forever. I will be reunited with Him for eternity. The One who loved me and you so much He died a violent death to save us. I don't need to be afraid of death.

"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7

Jesus will also make all things right one day. He will wipe away our tears, and there will be no more death- no more bombings, no more shootings, no more cancer, no more starvation, no more suffering. There will be justice, there will be peace.

His heart breaks to see us on earth, suffering under our sin and the sins of others. Suffering for things that we don't deserve, for things that occur because the world is broken not because we are being punished.

A boy in Brooklyn was murdered recently walking home from summer camp. It wracked me up inside as I thought about his little body in pain as he died, to think about his parents. His parents will never be the same. Everyday they are going mourn, everyday they will wonder why they didn't do something differently. I couldn't stop thinking about him, and worrying about the little people I love. And I want justice, I want justice for that little boy and his family. I want justice for the people of Norway.

I don't know where you are today. Maybe someone you love has just passed away, maybe someone you love is battling cancer, maybe someone you love was just diagnosed with autism, maybe someone you love is far from God.

Maybe you don't know how to reconcile yourself to God when you are surrounded by suffering.

Jesus understands. He walked on this earth. He loved those who were suffering, and suffered Himself. And He has conquered death because of His deep, unquenchable love for you. Give Him the burdens you are too weak to carry anymore. Give Him your fears about death. Give Him your suffering.

These are things I am working through. I need to give Him my fear, my worries, my terror, my suffering.

He can carry us. Death will never win, Jesus has already defeated it through the cross.

"He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." Revelation 21:4

Thursday, July 14, 2011

jewel and dostoevsky

Last night Tim and I took a trip to Jewel for a few things. We quickly found our orange juice, couldn't find goat milk ( I think we are in the middle of a goat lock-out), and settled for almond milk.

We waited in line at the express self check-out, and walked out the automatic door. In the cart corral we were cut off by a little old lady with a do rag handkerchief on her head, a skirt, and white socks with dark shoes. She looked up at us in surprise, and Tim said "Hi!" She looked frazzled and hurried out with her cart and shopping bag.

As we walked to our car she booked across the parking lot at a suprisingly high speed, which prompted Tim to say, "She's making a break for it!"

We watched this old lady on the run with her cart, wondering if she would be caught, eyes darting from side to side, nervously checking the automatic lock wheel to see if it would stop her run from the law. We passed her on our way out of the parking lot, still trucking her away across it like an wild animal was chasing her.

I kind of wish in hindsight that I had gotten out of the car and asked her if she needed help, or a ride to get home. But I didn't. And I wonder how she and the cart are getting along today.

The old lady reminded me a bit of Raskolnikov from Crime and Punishment. He plotted out his crime so well, he would never be caught. But the guilt of it weighed him down and drove him insane. I read that book my first year at Trinity for Modern European Literature with Dr. Baxter. After class, before soccer practice I would read a couple chapters on my bunk bed, and then fall asleep. I don't think it was eye fatigue or laziness (that happened with other books), that book was laced with so much suffering and guilt it made you feel hopeless, like you were Raskolnikov's accomplice in the pawnbroker's murder. I fell asleep from the mental burden of it all. I like to re-read books, but I don't know that I will re-read that one again any time soon.

Over 4th of July Tim and I saw "Tree of Life" at the movie theater. I don't really want to give away anything about it in case you haven't seen it, but I will say that I loved Malick's portrayal of guilt. In the movie the boy does something he is ashamed of, and as he walks home his mother is standing outside waiting for him. She says nothing, only looks at him. He looks at her and walks to the house. He says he wants to be like his brothers again, to feel innocent. That whole part gave me chills. I know that feeling. I know what it is like to be guilty, and to feel like everyone knows it. To feel alone, and exposed. To feel afraid. To long for innocence.

My favorite song in high school was Switchfoot's "Innocence Again." I wanted to be pure. I wanted to be free from my guilt riddled mind. I was always good at confession and beating myself up over sin, but not so good at accepting grace.

I think there is some grace in guilt itself. If we never felt guilty for stealing grocery carts, harming others, impure thoughts, or disobeying our parents, we would never feel the need for a Savior. We would feel as though we had it together. Feel like we could make it on our own. As people we would hurt each other more than we do now. Guilt keeps us from committing sins that we won't get caught for, because the burden is still there. The punishment is a tormented soul.

But we can't stop there. We aren't meant to live in guilt and self-hatred. God will forgive us and extend His grace to us. He is merciful, and He wants us to be re-born in Him. We cannot earn that forgiveness through self-inflicted brow beating. It's free because of Jesus, because He loves us.

Jesus loves you. And He doesn't want you to carry around your guilt anymore. Drop it at His feet, confess and walk in His love. He wants you to be free from sin, and live in Him.

"And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for." Isaiah 6:5-7

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

bicycles, climbing trees, and cassette tapes

I think about being a kid sometimes. Some things make me think about being a kid. An old home, an old album, and a bike.

Tim and I started riding bikes, again. I say again because in the past we were both avid bike riders, for me that was about 14 years ago. My friends, brother, and I would ride back and forth on a frontage road by our old farmhouse. I don't remember why we didn't get bored riding that same path to and fro, but I know we loved to ride. I recently recalled a memory I blocked out from embarrassment. I had learned to ride with no hands, and decided to ride with my eyes shut as well. Within seconds I was in the ditch with fresh scrapes and bruises. Nobody knew why, I would never tell.

We've been riding our bikes on the lakefront path. It makes me feel like a kid again, the cool breeze whipping round my face, teasing out my flyaways as we pass walkers and runners- and get passed by more serious bikers with spandex shorts. Your heart feels full from the intoxicating blend of wind, sun, and movement. Once again, I love to ride my bike.

A couple weekends ago we visited the old farmhouse where my grandparents still live. I hadn't been there in the summertime in years. We climbed the old tree, and I marveled at our ability as kids to scale it. Sure, it has gotten a little taller, but so have I. My first time in that tree I was afraid and called out to my mom for help. She instructed me to jump and assured me I would be just fine. The landing sent shockwaves up my legs, but they wore off quickly enough. Soon we were climbing that tree everyday, hatching plans and forming clubs. Tim and I sat in that tree together, and I wondered at the passage of time.

That house always makes me happy, and it's bittersweet. I love to be there. Every sidewalk crack, bush, and room has a thousand stories from childhood. I love to remember, and I grieve. I grieve the days when I was small, when I was child in my family, when the days were long and full of tiny adventures. And I'm happy, happy to remember those days and grateful that they ever were. Grateful to be with my family, my grandparents, and share those memories with my husband.

The other day I was shuffling my iPod and a song from Jars of Clay's first album played, Worlds Apart. I was immediately transported back into the family van, driving around the college town we lived outside of listening to that cassette tape. The songs from that album made me feel things, feelings that were not always informed by the lyrics (which I did not understand), but I felt just the same. Feelings of joy and sadness. Longing. I felt those again as I stood in our apartment, washing our blue dishes, making dinner.

All of these things make me sad and make me happy at the same time. The feeling is complex and common to man. I think we all long for the past and relish its remembrance, but we also love now. There are lessons I had to learn back then and in the years to follow that I do not want to be reminded of. There was sadness, there were humiliations that stung, separations that ached. But in these memories I am reminded that God is so good and so gracious. Life is full of many joys, some profound and some small, like bicycles, climbing trees, and cassette tapes.

I am thankful for my family, for my husband. I am thankful for the ways God has provided for all of us. I am thankful for the lightning bugs and summer nights. I am thankful that God has been with me every step of this life, through every joy and sorrow, and I will spend eternity with Him. I think I'm ready to go ride my bike and make some new memories. Thank You God for bicycles, climbing trees, and cassette tapes.