Such beautiful writing…the “The Essential, Henri Nouwen”:
“When we speak about celebration we tend rather easily to bring to mind happy, pleasant, gay festivities in which we can forget for a while the hardships of life and immerse ourselves in an atmosphere of music, dance, drinks, laughter, and a lot of cozy small talk. But celebration in the Christian sense has very little to do with this.
Celebration is only possible through the deep realization that life and death are never found completely separate. Celebration can really come about only where fear and love, joy and sorrow, tears and smiles can exist together. Celebration is the acceptance of life in a constantly increasing awareness of its preciousness. And life is precious not only because it can be seen, touched, and tasted, but also because it will be gone one day.
When we celebrate a wedding, we celebrate a union as well as a departure, when we celebrate death we celebrate lost friendship as well as gained liberty. There can be tears after weddings and smiles after funerals. We can indeed make our sorrow, just as much as our joys, a part of our celebration of life in the deep realization that life and death are not opponents but do, in fact, kiss each other at every moment of our existence.
When we are born we become free to breathe on our own but lose the safety of our mother’s body; when we go to school[college] we are free to join a greater society but lose a particular place in our family; when we marry we find a new partner but lose the special tie we had with our parents; when we find work we win our independence by making our own money but lose the stimulation of teachers and fellow students; when we receive children we discover a new world but lose much of our freedom to move; when we are promoted we become more important in the eyes of the others but lose the chance to take many risks; when we retire we finally have the chance to do what we wanted but lose the support of being wanted…
Those who are able to celebrate life can prevent the temptation to search for clean joy or clean sorrow. Life is not wrapped in cellophane and protected against all infections…When we have been able to celebrate life in all these decisive moments where gaining and losing–that is, life and death–touched each other all the time, we will be able to celebrate even our own dying because we have learned from life that the one who loses it can find it.
Matthew 16:25 “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”
Recently, I came across one of those photos that many of you have probably seen as well. It’s an image of a colorful landscape that has a blue dot in the center of the picture. Beneath that image, there is another that is almost identical; with the only differences being there is no blue dot and the image itself is dull with no color. The instructions say to stare at the blue dot of the first picture for, something like 30 seconds. Then, after doing so, you are to turn your focus to the dull image. If you’ve followed the instructions correctly, the dull image magically begins to appears to have the same exact colors as the vivid one. But, slowly the color disappears and you have to go back and focus on the blue dot all over again if you want to see the dull turn to bright. It hit me today how very similar that is to our walk with the Lord. Like the blue dot, if we keep our focus on Him, we can fully see all that is good vividly and in all its colorful splendor. At the same time we are able to look at the darkness of this world and add a color of hope to it all. But, when our focus waivers we can no longer do either of those things. We begin to lose sight of all that is good and lose hope for all that is dark to be redeemed. We must keep our focus on Him in tact. It is the only true, long-term way to experience all that He has done; is doing; and will do. He is the Lord of color; of light; of hope and in Him is our only hope to be freed of the dullness and darkness that exists in our lives and in this world.
As this year comes to an end, and as I acknowledge the shaky ground I have been on since my mother passed away in August 2016, one of my resolutions for the new year is to redirect my focus; placing it on the Lord first – not second; third;…or last as has been the case more times than not. If you find yourself in the same boat; my hope is that you will be able to re-focus as well.
Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
Nov 27, 2016
My mother passed away on August 7th of this year.
Just typing that is surreal.
It is by far the most difficult thing I have ever gone (and am going) through. I thought I was doing “okay”, but then Thanksgiving came and boy was I taken by surprise by the new level of grief that has hit. So, in trying to wrap my head around it all and the degree of crazy that I can sometimes feel, I wrote a message to my grief. It helped.
If you are currently mourning the loss of a loved one, and experiencing the emotional roller coaster that it can bring, I hope this will help to bring you to a place of peace. I also want to encourage you to find a grief support group in your area. Grief is hard, but it is necessary. Let the tears cleanse your soul. Trust in the knowing that God is with you and will guide you through it. Also, be mindful of the enemy. I have learned over the last few days that he will often disguise himself as grief. He wishes for you to not heal and is very content to keep you down; robbing you of the current joys that surround you. My prayer is you will recognize and rebuke him in those times.
Peace to you,
A MESSAGE TO GRIEF
I’ve met you before; but only in passing.
I’ve watched you take residence in someone’s heart; and
have offered my prayers, my kisses, my hugs –
all in an attempt to help remove you from that place.
Then, I have
shaken your hand;
bid you farewell; and
walked away –
leaving you behind, but with the knowing that I would see you again.
For as long as there is death and loss, you also will exist.
But, you’ve come too soon, my bittersweet friend;
And this time it is mine whose heart you have entered,
Serving as a constant reminder to me that the loss which preceded your arrival is, in fact — real.
You rear your head at unexpected moments, demanding to be acknowledged and refusing
to allow me to live in a fantasy world of denial.
You cast a shadow of darkness in my day.
A shadow that creates a sorrow like none other I have known.
Still, it is in this place where my Lord and Savior meets me.
He reminds me that had I not loved first, you could not find me.
He provides me the strength to embrace you rather than ignore you; and
Bids me to “be still” as He captures all my tears.
It is in this reality where He stays with me,
And where ultimately, through His light I see all the goodness;
beauty that remain –
Not only in today, but eternally.
For at the right time, you will be gone;
But He, along with His promises, will never leave me –
And this, dear grief, is the how and the why I press on.
“Don’t quench the dreams and visions the Spirit puts inside of you. Human nature is to subdue our hopes in order to protect ourselves from disappointment, but God gives longings and hopes in order to fulfill them. Jesus’ promise applied not only to a few apostles but to all who would read His Word. The God who knows the future will lead you into yours be giving you glimpses of it. Notice them and follow His lead.”
Prayer: “Spirit of God, You know my future and how it fits with your Kingdom plans. Please show me enough to draw me into Your purposes. Give me God-sized visions that we can fulfill together.”
As written in Experiencing God’s Presence; Chris Tiegreen.