A Liturgy of Remorse and Lament

Oh God,

God, we cry out.

We cry.

We cry to You because we can, because we need You, because You are Healer.

Teach us, oh Lord, to do more than cry out. Teach us to do more than talk, more than pray. Give us action.

Father, we repent. We repent, God, of the things we have said. Of the things we have done. Of the things we have not said, we repent also. God, for times we have not spoken up, for times we have not listened, we repent.

We come to you with broken and shame filled hearts. We come to you knowing that our silence, our fear, and our privilege has harmed others. We are one people, created in your image. We laugh, we cry, we love, we hug, we bond, we tell stories, we have souls. Every single one of us. And our souls, our very beings, who we are deep within, has hurt others. For this we are truly sorry.

May it not be trite, Father. We do not look for empty words. We do not pray to hear ourselves speak. Rather give our words meaning. Let them fill our hearts. Have us to act upon them. From this day forward, we choose to lament, to repent, and to turn the course of our actions in a new direction. We gladly choose to use our voice and our privilege to influence others, to help others, to speak for those who are not heard over the crippling noise of this world.

Forgive us. Use us. Teach us.

Flood our path with opportunity to do the right thing. Grant us new friendships, new hope, and a second chance to make things right among your children.

And may You, the God of Peace, fill us with the Spirit of Peace this very day.

Parents, You Can Do This!

When raising our kids overseas, we decided early on that they would go to the local schools just like every other kid. That meant that all of their learning was in a different language. Their English classes were probably much like your Spanish or French classes. They didn’t learn American History or read what we would consider “the Classics,” though they did master Latin. They didn’t understand American Government or memorize the State Capitols. And, in the first few years, I was worried.

I always wanted to supplement their education. I wanted to add in little snippets of history or literature or something. I was afraid that they weren’t learning what they needed to get into college or catch up if we ever moved back to the States. But my attempts always failed. They were already going to school. They were already learning and trying and working really hard. Their parent teacher conferences were great. (well, maybe we had one troublemaker out of four) They couldn’t handle more.

One summer, while back in the States, I had a couple of teachers tell me the same thing. They said that the experiences that my kids were having would far outweigh any book learning that they could have received. They were fine. Stop trying to compare them to others and let them flourish right where they were.

We did move back eventually. At the time of return, they had never gone to an American school and they were High School Juniors, an 8th grader, and a second grader. They were lacking some knowledge of the functions of our government and were lacking in some American History facts. They hadn’t read certain books. But, they kept up. They learned a lot. Two are now in college and absolutely flourishing. There was nothing to worry about, mom.

So, here we are. Caught up in a pandemic. Suddenly teaching our kids from home. Working from home ourselves. Doing things we’ve never done before. And worrying that we’re doing it right. I felt it fitting to share my experience. Because, frankly, I believe that you probably are doing it right. You don’t see it, but I see you. My kids are older, I’ve been around, and I can tell you that you’re doing a fine job.

Let me be honest, and I know I risk judgement for this, but I think my kids are crushing it in the education department. My 11 year old bought a cookbook with her own money, and is contributing daily to snacks and meals. I’m not even going to break down the skills this requires like reading, problem solving, math, and fractions. She writes letters and sends cards. She helped to make a list of elderly people in our church who need encouragement and helped deliver flowers. (There was zero contact, and she hasn’t been inside a store since March 14.) She’s helping us with gardening plans for the summer and working in the yard. She goes on 4 mile walks with her dad and has amazing conversations.

My senior is pretty crushed about his circumstances. He was looking forward to asking a girl to Prom. He, of course, was excited for graduation and senior pranks and all the dumb stuff that is also oh so important. He’s proud of where he is so far, and wanted to celebrate it. But, since he’s bored, he got a job. He works hard and is kind. He is generous with his money. He is doing his schoolwork, but more importantly, he is learning so much about taking care of others. He’s learning how the church really works and how to take care of people. He’s getting along with his siblings better than ever before. He has a heart for mission and justice and has been engaging in very important theological discussions. He’s learning that we can disagree with others and still love them deeply. That life has nuance.

So, yeah. They’re doing a great job. Do they stay up too late and watch to much tv and sleep in and have bad attitudes? Um, yes. Of course. Don’t you? (They also ask for ice cream about every day, and I bet you do that too!) Loosen your expectations. Laugh a little more. See joy in the little things.  Because, honestly, our time is what we make of it. Our hours lead to days that lead to months and pretty soon this whole thing will be over. Really, it will. (Trust me, I have a kid that’s 21 and I have no idea how I got here so fast.) I’m not saying put on your rose colored glasses and don’t be overwhelmed. I’m saying that you might need to take some pressure off of yourself because you’ve got this and just didn’t realize it yet. Believe me, you can do it. You are enough. You are capable. You can do hard things. I believe in you.

 

Grieving our Losses. . .Together

It was the summer of 2007. We were in the crowded hallway of the ICU. My husband, his stepmom, siblings, and even aunts, uncles, and cousins were waiting to hear the news. News that we knew we didn’t want to hear. News that would change us forever.  The Dr. came out and informed us that my father in law’s earthly life had come to an end. I remember that the Today Show was playing in the background. I remember another family that received good news about their loved one. And I remember looking into the eyes of my cousin and saying that the world is still moving forward, yet we are at a standstill experiencing something that will mark us forever.

That’s the first time we experienced real, raw grief as a family. Dad, mom, and three kids had to process such a difficult situation. Together. And separately. We learned that grief can be suffocating. That it comes in waves. We learned many things, including that everyone grieves differently.

Our world is suffering. We are living through something that we never even imagined possible. I have heard many say that it almost feels like we are living in a movie. We are all grieving. And, we are all coping.

One thing that my husband learned through experience, and that I have heard him use to counsel countless others throughout the years is that it is definitely ok to feel __________, but you cannot stay there. It is ok to be angry, but you can’t stay there. It’s ok to feel sad, but you can’t stay there. Feelings, emotions, they are real. And you can have them. It’s ok. You just can’t live the rest of your life in that place.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. As a mom, an entrepreneur, a pastor’s wife, and resident “concealer of all emotions,”  I really really want to look like I have my stuff together. I’d like people to think that I do not get angry, (false) I don’t lose my patience, (again, false) and that I’m generally easy to get along with. (ask my kids)

Here’s the thing. Life right now is hard. It’s upside down. It’s scary. Many of us have small businesses that aren’t moving forward, leaving us with a lack of income and worry for the future. Some of us haven’t lost our jobs. . .yet. And even though we know that we do a good job and that our boss is happy, we are also waiting for that phone call where they tell us that maybe we’re just not needed. If we have our jobs, many of us are working from home. Oh, and working in the same space that our spouse is working in. And, if we have school aged kids, they’re there, too. And, we have to teach them stuff. And, if we don’t have a spouse, then we’re alone. Alone in our houses. With our thoughts. And the internet. Don’t get me started on social media because that’s pretty much a total disaster. Much of the time it’s not really helpful for anything but the comparison game. . .or arguing. . .or getting into ridiculous political conversations.

So, if someone asks you how you’re doing and you break down, that’s ok. Really. If someone asks you how you’re feeling and you say sad, that’s fine. Rather normal, actually. If you say stressed out, you have every right to be. It’s ok. Be stressed. Be sad. Get angry. Honestly, if you aren’t a little stressed, I might worry about you. But, don’t stay there. Don’t live in the despair. Sit in it a while. Grieve. And then go about your day.

Like grief, it might come in waves. You might get angry in the morning, but then be ok. You might lose your cool with the kiddos, and then pray that they forget later because you’re ok now. You might be single and alone in your house and have a real good cry at 6PM, eat some dinner, watch Netflix and start tomorrow fresh. Above all, be gracious with yourself.

What we need to hear from others right now isn’t necessarily how awesome it is to homeschool our kids or how clean our closets are or how we are getting so much work done with giant smiles. We don’t need to hear how perfect it is for everyone working from home. We need reassurance that you also ate too many snacks or fell into the Tiger King trap or were wearing sweatpants in your Zoom call with your boss.  We need to hear someone say me, too! Since the me, too movement has already taken off, I propose a new hashtag for our lives right now. #same So, when you see that someone else wants to run screaming from the house because seventh grade math is too hard, you just say #same. When you can’t take it anymore because your kid is practicing his sweet recorder skillz, #same. When you are working MORE now from home than before and you are completely stressed, I pray that someone else says to you #same. When your toddlers are literally punching each other in the face and desperately want to see grandma. . . there’s gotta be someone else that says #same.

Today I did some things right. I walked outside for nearly an hour. I got a little bit tidied around the house. I read. But my kids ate leftover pizza for lunch, I made my daughter find her own dang craft supplies, and I’m pretty sure my high schooler did zero percent of his schoolwork. And, I’m very ok with that. Can I get a #same?

 

What Can You Give?

Have you ever heard the story of when a woman broke open a bottle of perfume and poured it over Jesus’ head? I’m guessing that even if you’re not a person of faith, you’ve heard that story. And, interestingly, Jesus himself said that people would be telling her story for generations to come.

This is Holy Week. The week that Christians celebrate the last week of Jesus’ life. From Palm Sunday (when he rode into Jerusalem on a donkey) to Easter Sunday (when he rose from the grave) and everything in between.

About this time in the week, just days before he was crucified, he was hanging out at a man named Simon’s house. Simon was a Pharisee. A leader in the Jewish faith. There was no room, really, for a sinful woman such as she to enter his house, but there she was. She came in, wept at Jesus’ feet, dried her tears with her hair, and broke a jar of perfume, pouring it on his head.

This was a major act of repentance and, on Jesus’ behalf, an act of forgiveness. We know it is about repentance and forgiveness because Jesus went on telling a parable about just that.

But, I see something else here, too. Sacrifice. A repentance so deep, a love so deep, that this woman was willing to give up probably the most valuable thing that she had. And, by their grumbling about giving to the poor, everyone else in the room knew of the perfume’s great value, too. She didn’t care. She was there for one thing only. To anoint Jesus for his burial.

It’s early in the morning, and this is the passage I’m reading for today as I too celebrate the life and death of Jesus this week. Only this week is truly unlike any Easter season I have ever experienced. Never have I ever been separated from my family and friends as I am now. Never have I felt the crushing blow of learning that so many of my fellow citizens, fellow humans, would potentially die of an illness that we know little about. Never have I felt the loom of a desperate economy struggling to catch up. I’m not sure I’ve ever before seen so many friends who have lost their jobs and truly do not know what the next step is. Yes, I’m old enough. Yes, I lived through other recessions. Yes, I lost much in 2008. But this seems. . .different.

I think of this unnamed woman in the Bible. Her story can become our story, can’t it? See, in these times, we can be so incredibly close fisted. We can be frightened for the future and unwilling to give. We can feel the need to stockpile for the future. We hoard our money, our resources, our things, our time, our safety, all of it, because the future is so incredibly uncertain. We can’t possibly give, or give more, because one day it all might be taken from us.

Did this woman care about that? No. She went right into a place where she was not welcome and did something so big, so extravagant, that Jesus himself said her story would be told for generations to come. And look at us proving him right.

As you look at Easter, how can you come to Jesus open handed? What can you give? How can you sacrifice? Are there needs around you waiting to be met? Is there something that you can sacrifice for Him?

This week, and any week really, we can come to Him desperate yet willing to give it all. We can come to him open handed rather than close fisted. We can come ready to give, ready to serve, ready to love. Our needs are still there, and our fear may be great, but He is worthy of everything we have. He is worthy of our greatest gifts. Anoint Him today, and the rewards will be worth it.

A Choice

 


For several days now, my home state has had in effect a Shelter in Place order. Not since the cold war’s “Duck and Cover” have we even heard such words. Nor have we had to think about such tragic circumstances invading our communities.
But it’s here. Now.
Many of us have had our lives completely turned upside down. We can’t go to work, and we have to work from home. Our work has changed somehow, evolved. There’s no specific place, no office with a door, so it seems like we’re always working or we’re never working. Some of us don’t have jobs. Or we have a suspicion that our job won’t last forever. And, the kids. Schools are out, kids are home. Even the big ones. Colleges are shut down, dorms closed, and grown children are once again sharing space with their parents. Speaking of parents, we’re all worried about ours. Will they get sick? Will they make it through this? What are they thinking right now?
What are any of us thinking?
The world is a crazy place to be right now. Never would I ever have thought we’d have to argue about our older children wanting to hang out and go for a drive. Just go. Wait. No. You can’t. Sorry. I know it’s lame, but people are counting on you to do this.
My world is at a standstill and spinning at the same time. How does that even happen?
When my world is so out of my control, I feel like giving up. I feel like shouting to the whole world that I don’t really have a choice. I don’t.
But that’s not true, is it? I always have a choice. Always.
I’ve noticed that I’ve been saying things like, “did you watch the governor’s report today” (ours addresses the state every afternoon) or “have you heard from your friends in Italy?”
I’ve noticed that I don’t mind turning on the news again, even though I gave up that habit nearly two years ago. I keep watching and waiting and watching. Even if it makes me anxious.
What I know is that I have a choice. I can have fear or faith. I can choose to be anxious about everything or delighted in the little things. I can follow the rules, fight the fight, keep the faith.
You have a choice, too. You can let your family get on your nerves, or you can relish this unique time to spend together. You can snip at your co-workers, or take a deep breath and remember that we are all struggling.

When we are faced with hard choices, we rarely walk away proud that we did the easy thing. Usually, when we do the hard thing, in the end we are grateful for the outcome. Thankful for the lessons learned. Blessed by the opportunities.
Today, I pray that you look fear in the eye and don’t let it consume you. Don’t give it a chance to take you down or discourage you. Instead, make a choice. Do good. Be kind. Bless others. Love well. Have hope.

 

A Liturgy for When I Feel Alone

Father, I feel alone.
Grant me peace in this trying time. Grant me courage to face my doubts. Show me in love how to face my fears.
I know, Lord, that I am never alone. Not truly. Not really. I know that you are with me. I know that you have gone before me. You know the future, and what it holds.
Oh, how I long to see that future. If I know the end, how it unfolds, what is about to happen, then I can get through. Right? I just need you to tell me what’s next.
But somehow Father, I know that you hold that Truth. That reality. That future. And, I realize that it’s not for me to know. Not yet. So, let me cling to you. In my fear, in my loneliness, in the waiting, let me cling to you.
Hold me tightly, Lord.
Don’t let go.
Help me feel safe.
Grant me peace.
Give me courage.
Make me strong, even strong enough for others.
Let me go about this day, and future days, with a peace that assures me that you are with me every moment of every day.
Guide my darkened path with your everlasting light.
Amen

Unite in Love

Friends,

Over the course of my life, I have seen many things. I have lived many places, including over 10 years in Italy, a place for which I currently grieve alongside my beautiful friends. I, my husband, or both have been in some kind of ministry related field for over 20 years. All of the things I want to express I have seen first hand. I am not speculating. I am not making things up. I am not trying to get political gain. I have no agenda. I just know people. I love people. I have a heart for Jesus and the gospel message. I want to be the biggest and best light out there. I desire to give, to serve, to make people happy, to win them to the Kingdom. And, for many of my friends, I think that you do, too. Maybe we have forgotten how.

Yesterday I did some personal shopping for nine different families. Yes, I spent about nine hours in stores, on my feet, in my car, and at people’s homes. Some of them were in wheelchairs. Some just had surgery. Some are imunocompromised. Some have sick children or babies or businesses to run before the economy takes a hit. And some, many, didn’t get the things that they needed. Legitimate things that are on their list every time I see them. Normal things that shouldn’t be hoarded. Then, today while out with my family, my daughter is told by a mom that she is stressed out because she has a 7 month old baby and there were only 5 packages of wipes in the store. For everyone. At the next store I watched as my daughter picked up wipes (that she buys consistently and uses for her face) and then later put them back without purchasing them because someone else probably needs them more. Life is full of decisions.

The government has begun to shut down public gatherings. Sporting events. Universities. Schools. We are being told to stay home. My mother, who works in a nursing home, has to have her temperature taken before entering the building. She has to sign in every time she goes to work. There are no more visitors to her (or any in our area) nursing home. They may have to begin eating in their rooms as early as tonight.

We live in a community that offers free breakfast and lunch for our public school students. A community where, at the time of implementation, 83% of our students qualified for a free or reduced lunch. There are a number of kids that I know benefit from this and struggle when school is out of session.

I know many teachers and school staff. My daughter works for the YMCA and they will close tonight at 10PM and be closed until the end of the month. People will be losing work, and therefore compensation.

Friends, remember when I said that I think you want to shine? I know that you want to do right? To spread love? To take care of others? Today I’m telling you that you NEED to. We need to. We need to band together like never before. We need to set aside differences and work together for good. We need to lift others up, not drag them down or leave them behind. I want to share some ways that you can show your faith by your loving deeds. Just in case you have forgotten.

Remember that not everyone will make the same decisions as you. I have an autoimmune disease. Because of this, I know others who suffer like me. We have a little “club.” Not really, but definitely a camaraderie. Maybe there will be a time that they decide to stay home. That’s it. They need to stay well. Respect that decision. They are not silly. They are not overreacting. They probably hate it, hate their bodies, are embarrassed, and probably very lonely. Check up on them. Call them. Like with a phone. And voices.

Those sweet, sweet seniors in nursing homes. They must stay well. And protected. But, some of them didn’t even have visitors before. You may have relatives in a nursing home that you “forget” or “get too busy” to visit. How lonely that must be. If they end up losing their dining hall time, how sad that would be to lose the only time you have for being around other people. Call them. Pray for them. Send a note or a card. Face time so they can see your home. Buy them a treat, and have it sent in.

Those families who rely on free breakfast or lunch? What might be a very big deal to them, might not be a big deal at all to you. Help them. Reach out. Don’t judge. That’s the last thing a loving parent needs right now. Make sandwiches. Buy some granola bars. Drop off some canned goods. Love your neighbor no matter who they are. Yesterday is done, tomorrow is a new day. Start over. I had a sweet friend message me today telling me that she made a big pot of soup. She said that this world needs our love, and if I knew anyone who needs a hot meal, let her know. They want to share! That is showing our God to the world, people. That is doing the right thing.

The people losing out on work? Yes, for now there will be safety nets and systems in place. But, in the long run? Will the sweet lady you see every day at the Y or your favorite server at your favorite restaurant need a little help? Help them now. Drop off a note, a $20 bill, a bag of groceries. Say, I know it’s tough not knowing your future, but I care about you. Just knowing someone cares sparks something big in us! No one wants to be the jerk who stops the succession of cars paying for the person behind them in the drive through. Kindness grows. Kindness is contagious. Start something little. It might turn into something big.

Friends, I care about you. I really do. And, I know you care about your neighbors, too. Please, let’s remember how to take care of each other.

A Liturgy by the Sea

Good and gracious Father,

Oh how I love the sea. Thank you, dear Lord, for giving us water.

I watch the waves crash and roll back out to sea. The infinity of it all my mind just cannot grasp.

I am mesmerized, Lord. I am calm. I see you in the blue waters; in the deep I know you rest. Keep me calm for all of my days. Help me to remember what it is to explore your creation. Help me to see how deep and vast and wild is your design.

Just as you have fashioned man, you have fashioned nature. The land and the sea, they are yours. The earth, the sky, the deep, you rest in it all. You make your home everywhere, and in the sea I see your nature displayed.

Lord, you are wild. You get angry. We sometimes enrage you with our sin. We sit in our shame, but then you call us. You beckon us back to you. Like the waves roll back out to sea, so we race back to where you rest. I am blessed to be able to sit with you. Even if just for a moment, I am so very blessed to be in your presence. You are calming. You are loving. You are God.

But I know that I cannot be here, be by the sea, forever. I must go home. I must continue my routine. I must engage in my daily life here on earth. But, I am thankful. My soul rests in you. I find my peace in knowing that you are everywhere, and I am grateful that I cannot escape your presence.

 

A Liturgy for When my Schedule is too Tight

Dearest Lord,

Why? How? Father, you have asked me to leave space, to leave room for you. Where did that room go?

Lord, I am overwhelmed. I am too busy, too tired, drowning. The day ends and there is nothing left. Nothing is left for me. Nothing is left for you. I am drained.

How do I manage this life that is being thrown at me? What choices can I make to follow you better? Where do I turn when the wheel is spinning too fast? How, Lord, can I stop the cycle?

Father God, help me. I want to live as you desire. I want space and scripture and margin and sabbath. I want peace and rest and joy and love. I need you and I need your word. You have created me; you know everything about me. Please, Lord, instill in me a desire to change, to slow, to stop.

Give me wisdom, Lord. Help me listen. Tell me when to say no. Allow me to feel your presence encouraging me to put down the device or to stop saying yes to everything, even good things.

Father, like a child, your child, I need guidance. I am at the end of my rope and I don’t know where to turn next. I am worn. I am weary. I am tired. I wasn’t there when you created the earth. I often do not know of your ways. But I know that they are good. Your ways are good and true and higher than my ways. My way isn’t working, and now I’m asking you to instill in me yours. Your truth. Your plan.

Ease this daily struggle. Help me to create margin. Help me to rest. Give me time. Give me grace. Give me courage to say no. Allow my family and friends the pleasure of my presence, and allow me theirs. As I begin to see what can be, help me to desire it more.

Thank you, Lord, for your constant presence in my life. May I recognize it. May I be encouraged by it. May I know it. May I feel it.

Grant me peace.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑