Tuesday, June 28, 2011

When Old Injuries Ache

When the phone rang late last night, I didn't want to stand up to answer. I knew it was Mike calling from Guatemala. I don't know how I knew this — it's just the same old ring as every other call, but I always sense when it's him, my heart so in tune with the husband of 22 years and a feel for six years of ministry there. My back is tired, and all I really want to do is go to bed, the king-sized one with fresh sheets in the spacious bedroom upstairs.

The house is clean, that's why I hurt. I bent over stairs to vacuum, the dog to bathe, two tubs to clean, laundry baskets, and my back aches in protest of constant work. It only always hurts in the spot of an old injury when I bend to overwork.

But the house sparkles, gleaming and awaiting the arrival of cousins, an uncle, and a new-found grandfather. There's broccoli slaw and chicken salad in a heavy-laden refrigerator prepared for memory-making around the kitchen table. Everything and everyone here waits in expectation.




Mike tells me of their Guatemalan plans. They finished medical treatment for four villages in three days. God has redeemed a half day so there will be time for the dump. This measure of time is God's grace because the dump is desperate and deplorable.





They will do some food prep of their own, many loaves of refried bean paste sandwiches, to feed those who live in the city dump, where there's only the desire to forget and no kitchen table. Their homes are made from foraged materials, anything that can be used as a buffer to protect from the elements. Their neighbors are vultures, and stray dogs, and the stench of toxic decomposition, but hunger is the vulture within and drives them to an unthinkable place in search of resources to sustain life. The dump is a place for cast-away things to die, and a population of people gather there to find scraps of trash to piece together a life.







This juxtaposition of here and there is another old injury that hurts ever much more than my back. So I rise and answer the call. The one ringing my phone now, and the one to ring my doorbell tomorrow, and pray God somehow makes room in one heart for both.

{Family photo from Dad's visit last summer. Pictures from the Coban City Dump, where our family fed the hungry in November 2008.}







Linking this week with Soli Deo Gloria and Imperfect Prose.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Truest Love In a Thank You Note

Love is more than blissful images from a brides magazine.

Love is more than a diamond that sings.

Love is more than a thirsty first look into your newborn's eyes.

It's more than the wedding dress.

It's not all honeymoon.

It's more than ebb and flow.

And yes, we signed up for it with words like "richer or poorer" and "better or worse".

Love is more than going grey and growing comfortable.

It's more than love letters.

And I find it today in a thank you note.

Dear Prayer Group,

I would like to thank you for all the many prayers that have been made on my wife's behalf. She has a dreaded disease (Alzheimer's) which has advanced into the last stages according to her doctor, but I know the Almighty has the final say, and I do believe in the power of prayer.

I have been so very blessed to have her here at home rather than in a nursing home. We have had a very special life of almost fifty-two years together, and I do still love her very much. I even enjoy the days we are having now.

Again, thank you so much for your many prayers.
Chuck*

Love is happily ever after ... no matter what.
Because love — truest love — never fails.


{Thank you note signer's name changed and emphasis added}
{Photo courtesy of Courtney and Sam}


Friday, June 24, 2011

Extreme Testimony

Mike is back in Guatemala for the third time this year. Medical missions in two locations this time. In the spirit of that ministry trip, I invited a friend to share an article he wrote for a local magazine (Living Real) shortly after he returned from Guatemala Extreme back in March.  Thank you, Will, for sharing your story here.

: : : 

Will Bryan, art director,
 daddy, washed-up athlete

I recently returned from a week-long trip to the mountains of Guatemala.  Twelve of us from three different churches hiked into several mountain village communities to bring food, share the Gospel, and pray for the people living there.  I have to say it was one of the best weeks of my life.

I should not be surprised.  Some of the best times of my life have been in the inner city slums of Haiti, and in the orphanages of Romania.  When I go to another country to share my faith and try to be a blessing to those in need, it has always ended up being some of the most meaningful and personally satisfying times of my life.

Does it make sense that I can be most satisfied when I am in some of the poorest and most dangerous environments in the world?



David Platt discusses this in his book Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith From the American Dream. Platt makes a strong case that we Christians in America are not living authentic Biblical lives, but instead we are living out a
Christian spin on the American Dream.... We are molding Jesus into our image. He is beginning to look a lot like us because, after all, that is whom we are more comfortable with.  ~David Platt, Radical 
Platt shows how the life of Jesus teaches us to live a life of radical abandonment to purposes very different from the American Dream — more specifically, taking the good news of the Gospel to those who have never heard it and caring for the needs of the poor and the oppressed.



From our typical American perspectives, what Platt challenges us with, which in essence is Biblical obedience, seems absurd in practice. That is until you experience some of the things Platt prescribes.

In Guatemala, our team was one of the first groups of outsiders to enter an isolated village settled in an old guerrilla training camp. Most of the villagers had never even heard the Gospel. Nor had their parents, grandparents, or their great grandparents. We were telling the first generation of this community for the first time that God truly loves them.

As men and women and children came forward with tears in their eyes to pray and surrender their lives to God's love, I thought  to myself, "There is absolutely no amount of money that could replace this." We celebrated with the community by cooking and serving food to the hungry women and children. I know I will never forget this experience.




In our group were Cubans, African-Americans, Mexicans, Caucasians, and Guatemalans — teenagers to senior citizens. W prayed together, ate together, and worshipped together. We had deep meaningful conversations about life, our experiences, and our interpretations of the Bible. We shared our personal struggles and past pains with each other. When we left, I had twelve new very close friends with whom I shared a life-defining week.

How long would it take you to make twelve close friends? How many of us even have twelve very close friends?

This sense of intimate community is something that the American Dream cannot deliver, but the way of Jesus cannot  truly be experienced without it. Is participating in intimate community on your list of life goals?



Here in America, there is this unspoken assumption that faith in God equates to prosperity, but no teacher of the New Testament, including Jesus, ever promised wealth as a reward for being obedient. Instead what Platt correctly points out is that obedience leads to a life of meaning, a life of purpose, and a life of satisfaction. How much would you pay to be completely satisfied with your life?

When I came home from Guatemala, I loved my wife more, I loved my daughter more, and I loved God more.  Every aspect of my life was better, and nothing had changed but me.  How much is that worth? Improve every aspect of your life in a week! What would be monthly installments on that?



The purpose of our lives transcends the country and culture in which we live.  Meaning is found in community, not individualism; joy is found in generosity, not materialism; and truth is found in Christ, not Universalism.  Ultimately, Jesus is a reward worth risking everything to know, experience, and enjoy.

I have found that in my life taking risk doesn't seem to be all that radical anymore.


Extreme Team Radical Evidence


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Africa In My Kitchen

After dinner, he tells us all how to say it in Swahili.

Asante. Mungu awabariki. Thank you. God bless you.

He learned it from Peter Ndungu during an international conference call to plan a crusade in Kenya. Harrison Ndungu (apparently the equivalent of Smith in Kenya) sent Mike a Facebook message saying, "Praise Jesus! I saw your travel schedule/ticket. That's your commitment. Asante. Mungu awabariki."

When the phone rang, it was Pastor Garang, a satellite in orbit making speech in Sudan instantly audible in South Carolina. He sits with a cell phone outside his hut in Aweil at midnight, listening to the quiet. He says the stars are brilliant there like nowhere else on earth, thousands of nightlights for a dark continent.

Details begin to pile up and excitement rises. The scale weighing Africa's need against my timidity tilts toward Africa and lifts my shaking fear up high as an offering to the Lord in one fluid movement. The new heights are exhilarating; the view magnificent. Adrenaline rushes already.

We prayed for Sudan six months ago, last November, unaware that that distant land was in our near future. The missionary reported that the five year peace treaty between the north and south would reach its end January 9, 2011. Should the south secede from the Islamic north, an iron curtain will fall upon the people of the north shutting out any evangelism or Christian work. Should the Christian south reconcile with the north, they will be overpowered by Muslims, no longer free to Christian worship.

How to pray? Only the Spirit knows.

In the end, the South did secede from the North in January, their new government to take effect July 9, and already there is unrest. Aweil is 90 miles from the new national border that cuts a new country from the old. The border town of Abyei lies in South Sudan, but it's oil-rich and will not be peacefully surrendered by the North. Military attack has already begun. Many are now refugees in search of safety in Aweil, the once quiet village with a man star-gazing at midnight with a cell phone to his ear, listening to my husband dream about Africa.

World Magazine called it Warmongering.



Image from Warmongering, World Magazine, June 18, 2011

Violence in Africa has reached my kitchen table in America, and I need to know how one makes plans to travel to a country again on the cusp of civil war. And how the other one stays home, puts laundry away, and prays for a time eternal when the lion and lamb will lie together.

And foreign words come again to me in answer, "That's your commitment. Asante. Mungu awabariki."



: : :

Crusade in Kenya
Pastor Garang in Aweil — friendsofsudanproject.org (website off-line currently)

To sponsor Mike's mission:
Give online or
Mail to:  Africa for Christ 2011
                523 Superior Street
                Columbia SC  29205

Asante.  Mungu awabariki.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Almost Middle School Boys (and Girl) and a Superhero

I teach almost-middle school boys on Wednesday nights. There are usually a few girls as well, but this week, it was just me and the boys and only the quietest of the girls. Of all people, I'm glad it was they with whom I shared my adventure through Revelation Chapter 1. It all started when we were given that text to see in scripture symbols, similes, and metaphors.

Have I mentioned that I was an English major and took an English course at a secular university called Literary Interpretation of the Bible? This little lesson had me giddy and my boys (and girl) rolling their eyes saying, "This is like Language Arts—in the summer! Ughhh!" (Don't think their simile was lost on me.)

But, just as every good teacher does, I forged ahead with full confidence that they just might learn something from this tedious lesson. After reviewing the definitions of literary devices, we began marking key words, among them "seven stars" and "lampstand."

As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches. ~verse 20
"Okay, guys, I don't want to hear any more about lampstands and stars. Those words are code words." I pause to look over both shoulders for anyone who might be eavesdropping and add quietly, "They really mean angels and churches. Got it?"

They sat up taller in their seats, leaned in a bit just in case there were more secrets to be divulged.

Then we noticed that in the middle of these golden lampstands churches was a simile: One like a son of man with hair like white wool and snow, eyes like fire, feet like bronze heated in a furnace, a voice that sounded like Waikiki Beach when the surf's up or the thunder of Niagara Falls, with a two-edged sword in his mouth, his face shining like the sun!

"Alright, Detectives, sketch the scene, sort of like a wanted poster of a criminal. Draw the details the eyewitness, John, gives us so we can identify our Man."

Circulation of colored pencils and drawing commenced. Lame, long-forgotten images of language arts class are now replaced by Crayola superheros emerging in the comic book square of little boys' (and girl's) workbooks. Mine, too.


Since my own pathetic mug shot of the Christ interrupting church was beginning to border on sacrilege, and the boys (and girl) are completely involved in their own renderings, I stop drawing and capitalize on their distracted attention.

"What if this Guy showed up in the middle of OUR church?"

"I'd be scared!" said P, drawing hot, angry flames at his Hero's feet.

"Me, too,"  I said, feeling sure this vivid image is Who I will stand before at judgement, alone and afraid—my deeds being tried by the very fire P drew. This Revelation-comic-book image of Super-human Jesus matches my Judgment Day Jesus. But oddly, not the Jesus of What a Friend We Have In Jesus, the hymn I haven't been able to get out of my head since last Sunday for some reason.

I'm lost in thought now; the kids still engrossed in their drawing; Why can't I see the Superhero Jesus when I'm tempted, and the Friendly Jesus on Judgment Day? I'd be more victorious AND more peaceful, making Jesus even happier with me. Jesus could save the day and I could live happily ever after....

T breaks my reverie, when, still drawing a sharp two-edged sword and never looking up from his work, he quietly thinks out loud,

"I wouldn't be afraid if I knew He was on my team."

And with that, a little boy taught me, straight from the not-so-difficult-to-understand-after-all Book of Revelation, that the fiery Superhero's not so scary when He's your Friend.

I could have lept a tall building in a single bound.



And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven." ~Matthew 8:2

Hearing it on Wednesday night, living it out on Thursday morning, as it turns out.

Friday, June 17, 2011

"Building"


Because my husband is often there, and my heart is always there, Photo Friday pictures today are from Antigua Guatemala.  Four days and he'll be there again.  But he will see the beauty in the forgotten and neglected, because they are one and the same in the Guatemalan mountains.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What We Do About the Little Things

I had a delightful week of quiet, clean, and completed projects I never seem to have time for last week while I was home alone.  And then they got home, and everything instantly reverted to what I know of my routine life day in, day out. Even the things that aren't so delightful.

I had to tip-toe down the stairs earlier than the rest who like to sleep late, because late for me is 6 am. I tossed a sweater over my PJs because the thermostat gets moved 5 degrees cooler when Mike's home, and I was (always am) cold. The documentaries I enjoyed last week on TV, are a thing of the past.  I don't have the time, nor am I the one who controls the remote. And Mike has made our kitchen table his home office again — already. {Sigh}

They hadn't been home for twelve hours yet, and I'd already made quite a few concessions for the sakes of those I love the most—and live with, maybe more importantly. And every single one is worth it, even if measured one at a time rather than the huge sum total they might seem to me to be together. They are small concessions for the sake of love, harmony in my home, and fulfilling relationships.

If we're selfish in the little things, thinking they're inconsequential, we just might be unknowingly sacrificing the biggest things we want the most. It's a subtlety we don't always recognize. I think these even might be among the first sights along the paths that ultimately lead to affairs and divorce and grown kids who seldom come home to visit Mom and Pops.  When we reach one of those ruinous ends and we can't point to one big thing that catapulted us there, we assuredly arrived one small decision after another to serve self rather than those we love.

Right now, my son is filling our piano room with his voice and chords that make my heart sing. It's something I'm more than happy to continue hounding him to clean his room for, because although his room was clean for a week without any barking on my part, there was no beautiful music here last week.

Small concessions. Are you making them or foregoing them? How can you tell?

And now I'm wondering what concessions my family makes in order to live with and love me. Great.



Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.  ~Philippians 2:3-4

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Youth Camp: When God Moves


Youth camp at our church may not look like yours.

We are located in the inner city, and welcome our inner city neighbors.

Our tagline is:  A Healing Place For a Hurting World.

We are diverse:  Hispanic, Black, and Caucasian so far.

And stiving toward the goal of every tribe and tongue, every socio-economic barrier broken.

On our youth trips, we have mohawk haircuts, tatoos, pierced whatevers, stray curse words, sagging pants, and rebellious attitudes mixed in with kids who grew up in church.

We also have very patient leaders who love kids behind all these façades.

It could be a recipe for disaster.

Or it just might be the environment where God moves.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Youth Camp: Dawn



Then God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night,



And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years;



and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth";



and it was so.



God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night;
 He made the stars also.



God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth,



and to govern the day and the night,



and to separate the light from the darkness;



and God saw that it was good.



There was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.
Genesis 1:14-19

: : :

Gratitude Counting ~

439 ~ quiet mornings home alone last week that were beautiful to me
440 ~ magnificent announcement in the sky that night is over
441 ~ new beginnings for kids at camp
442 ~ that the Lord God made it all



Praying our teens will live out at home what they learned at camp.

{Photos courtesy of Johnny Hernandez}

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Way Forward

It's another Five Minute Friday post today, so here goes:

Backwards

START

It unnatural. Instinct says move forward, only forward. But backwards is the way of God. The Creator became creation, Spirit born flesh -- in order to forgive. It's unnatural, maybe because it's grace.

It's going back to a mistake, the gift of a do-over. Can it be there really are second chances?

So don't stuff it down and wish it were never there. Go backwards. Retrace those steps, find forgiveness. Redeem means to buy back. He's the backwards God who re-does and redeems. Making perfect is sometimes circling back to a "has been." I dare you, dare me, to move forward by going back to revisit.

Reverse doesn't always feel like progress. But can progress be made, real progress, without it? A backward glance is perfect sight, hindsight 20/20, so when we turn back around to face forward, the view is grand, full of grace and forgiveness. And so redeemed. Oh, the joy! All because we chose to go backwards, digress, and get lost in what we don't want to face again, in order to move forward again.

STOP



Monday, June 6, 2011

Sweet Defeat

I turn up the news and change the sheets at 6:30 in the morning because there isn't anyone still snug in beds here. My kids are at youth camp, chaperoned by their pastor-dad, and I don't have to creep around quiet in the dark while a family sleeps this summer morn. A family of five minus four leaves me and the dog oddly alone and unsure of what to do with all the tidy quiet.

I used to enjoy being left behind before children, when Mike gallavented with youth groups, to read, and think, and be still. But that was a decade and a half ago, and although I remember who she was back then, I don't really know her anymore. Distance measured in time made us strangers, surprising strangers.

I washed the dishes before I left for work: a saucepan from steamed milk for my coffee, two spoons, and last night's water glass. They looked lonely in the sink and I couldn't bear it, so I rinsed warm suds, and left the sink a stark empty. Victory.

My goal, every other morning, all day long, as long as I can remember, is to somehow win the battle of mounting dirty dishes in a perpetually cluttered kitchen. Today, there's easy victory before 7:30 am.

The chaos and clutter, my supposed opponent all these years, today surprises me as an old friend, one I miss seeing in my empty sink. I look around at my achieved victory, the kitchen table pristine, the quiet washing machine.

Victory is empty.

I never knew it would be.  I can't wait until my full life returns in stuffed suitcases, sunburns, and revived spirits to fill my home, my washing machine, with the mess that is my life.

I think I prefer defeat, full as it is, over empty victory—any day and every day.

I can only wonder if I will still embrace defeat and stop fighting the age-old battle once they get home. Somehow, I doubt it.

Lord, please don't let me get used to this clean house. Amen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Scales and Coattails

You know how sometimes we weigh our guarded surrender on the scale opposite what-if-He-sends-me-to-Africa-as-a-missionary? We all know which side is heavier—the "guarded" on the surrender side.  Duh.

But God is patient and kind.  Because he's been chipping away at my "guarded" until the "surrender" was pure gold tipping the scale toward the Africa side.

Can you see where this is headed?

Yes, to Africa.

We're going to Africa. At least Mike is. I'm not riding there on his coattails by including myself either; instead I'm sending my better half, the golden unguarded half who's not afraid and apprehensive (like me) but humbled by God-given opportunities and willing to go to The Dark Continent.

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

Africa is the Dark Continent on so many levels: 
  • Civil unrest
  • Religious oppression
  • Unspeakable poverty
  • Largely third world status
But Mike has been burdened with reaching the unreached, unengaged people groups of the world,  and has already brought the gospel to a whole remote Guatemalan village that had never heard it, so it was inevitable, don't you think?

He'll first spend a week on Crusade in Kenya with Wesley Paul, a full-time evangelist.  What must it feel like when a sea of people have all eyes on you and the Words of Life are in your mouth?


Then he'll travel alone to the brand spanking new country of Southern Sudan to work with Pastor Garang, whom Mike providentially met in a Guatemalan airport, to spend a week training Sudanese pastors.

Pastor Garang, a native of Sudan, fled his home in the 80's, found refuge in Cuba, then migrated to Guatemala (a loose parallel to Mike, who fled communist Cuba for the US and now ministers in Guatemala).  Ultimately God called Pastor Garang back to his war-torn homeland.  He is on the left, baptizing the oldest member of the community:


I love this baptismal pool because it looks like a muddy grave, and isn't that what baptism really is? Death to the dirt-flesh that we were before Christ?

Would you like to go to Africa on coattails?  You can, with a tax-deductible donation to make Mike's trip a financial reality.  Here's how:


If you would like to sponsor Mike , donate at http://www.cwochurch.com/ or mail your gifts to:

AFRICA For Christ 2011
523 Superior Street
Columbia SC  29205

You could pray, too.  For Mike and Pastor Garang and Wesley, of course, but mostly for me.

Clinging to the scale with golden gratitude,
Dawn



Pastor Garang's website appears to be off-line currently.  The website is:   friendsofsudan.org.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Standing Still and Moving On

Seventeen years is a long time, and will only grow longer.
 edited excerpts from my journal dated June 6, 1994:

Today was the funeral.  There must have been 100 sprays of flowers, the casket closed, surrounded by pictures of you in happier days.  It all looked so dignified, and I was dying inside.  Can I say that?

In the airplane, flying to you, I remember the accidental recording of the phone call from my accident so long ago, the sound of Wayne scrambling up the stairs, yelling, "Jeff!  Jeff!  Dawn's been hurt!"  The echo growing faint in the recorder's distance.  But I now somehow hear it strangely different, "Dawn!  Dawn!  Jeff's been hurt!" 

In that plane, I wished it were me.

When we got here, the house was deathly quiet.  Now I know what deathly quiet is.  It is a silence that suffers great sorrow and screams out its pain to an unfair world of life and death that refuses to give us back our loved ones.  And time seemed to stop once Mom, Wayne and I found each another's embrace. 

"It's better this way," Wayne offers.

I look at Mom, "He's gone?!"

"He's gone."

Is there another way to get this news?  I am breaking apart.  I hear a wild animal in the night, and it's me.

The three of us held each other up, cry:  we were always more collectively than alone, each weaker now without him.   Time stood still for me, and I wonder if that is indeed what eternity is like, the difference being the bad that is so horrifically bad that it stops time being replaced with good that is so achingly good that time will stand still. 

Does Jeff stand still even now?  As we do?  Because we do?  Is Jesus watching?  Right there with him?
This morning at 4 am, the very time of the accident just four days ago, the heavens opened, and rain filled all time and space.  It woke me and made me feel release.  Hot, tender emotion cooled by sweet rain.  I lay still in the guest bed, a stranger in my old room and in my own skin, with rain slipping down my windows.  I had forgotten Mississippi rain.  Its sound sings somber, harmony to my grief.  Some part of me flew away, free.

The rain stopped but the day stayed grey, as if in mourning, and I was glad.  — I was glad.

I did not want this day to come.  I cannot lay him down.
                         *               *              *
No one ever wants to intrude on someone's grief.  No one did, but I had a need to get it out, and journaled these words when night fell on the day I did what I couldn't do:  I layed him down.  Some seventeen years later, the hole in my heart remains, only grass has now grown over the grave. It is soft, and green, and lush with life because time has a wonderful way of not standing still.

Wayne, Mom, Jeff in happier days

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Learning Resurrection Life

Mr. John and Mrs. Barbara pour grape juice into plastic communion cups. They wash the silver cup holders and bread plates, fill them with wafers, and they starch crisp white table linens that enshroud the meal. It's been their duty as long as I can remember. Mrs. Barbara's never let the shaky Parkinson's disease stand in the way of her aim when she shoots her 64 ounce bottle of juice at her half ounce targets.

Other than a vague knowledge of their communion table preparation, I'd never given it a second thought. But this time Mrs. Barbara was spinning through chemotherapy cycles when the communion cycle spun to the top of the church calendar. I wondered if she was up to the task. And for the first time ever, I was envious of the duties. What an intimate act of service it must be to the church and Lord Jesus to prepare the communion meal. I now was longing to do this act. To prepare for death.



I remember preparing for death; I've done it before. I was bent in half in my closet swimming through the blurry salt water crowding my eyes, and the mess of shoes looking for black. Without thought, I said to Mike, "Bring a suit in case there's a funeral." The words didn't seem real in my mouth, but ricocheted in my ear.

The next day, another blow hit its mark hard: burial clothes, too, were needed. Mike and I volunteered to make the hour drive to Jeff's apartment to retrieve one of his suits and a tie. His white shirt needed to be ironed, a task I desperately wanted to do for my brother. When we got back to Mom's I offered to iron, but Mom said she wanted to do it.

A mother's love trumps a sister's, so I acquiesced and sat opposite her on the couch, watching the iron's heat coax wrinkles from the cotton and a shirt stand proxy for a son when a mother poured out her last loving service to her firstborn. No words are fit for this occasion, so we were left to our own thoughts. I don't remember what I was thinking then, but now I am struck by how desperate we both were to serve him, some way, with any act of kindness we could find. We needed to declare tangibly our love for him, to demonstrate it one last time. In the face of death.

In Sunday school today, we watched Paul build a logical case for the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 that would rival any defense attorney's closing arguments. It was an air-tight case, brilliantly argued. His conclusion crescendoed with an ardent plea to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.

As we took communion a short time later, thoughts of resurrection life lingered. Mrs. Barbara was beaming under her hat, holding her communion cup steady. Her duties to the Lord's table complete, she looked peaceful and well-satisfied, perhaps because of the added effort it took this time around. It's the contentment that comes with loving acts of service.

When Jesus humbled himself to become flesh, he was donning burial clothes. The flesh and blood he took upon himself to identify with us, are the same burial clothes we now put on to commune with Him. We drink and we bite down and we die. And He breaks the hold of death so we can live the resurrection life. It's lavish and extravagant. Jesus, too, commits a last act of service to declare his love. In the face of death. And I remember the desperation to serve my brother with a last loving service.

I feel compelled to live my resurrection life with this same desperation for my Lord. I pray it be reckless abandon in the face of death from this moment on. And lavish, like Jesus'. I offer myself a dead but living sacrifice on the alter, a spiritual service that the writer of Romans deems an act of worship. Love, at its core, demonstrates itself as service, obedience. It is not obligation. It is love. Desperate and extravagant, it is love that will not be denied.





Unashamedly reposting and linking everywhere I can in remembrance of my big brothers:  Jeff and Jesus.
Jeff:  1966 - 1994
 Jesus:  Eternity
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