Let There be More Rejoicing in Heaven

Ash-WednesdaySometimes I talk about where I grew up and the circumstances. Flint, Michigan–the child of a single parent. My mother is fantastic. She worked hard, provided for our needs and didn’t bring crisis into our home. You know, those common crises often associated with single moms living in financial, emotional or spiritual desperation. I got a pass on most of that.

But her provision and stability didn’t always compensate for her absence. I was a typical unsupervised, fatherless girl searching for affection and approval in most of the wrong places. I made terrible choices and really put myself at risk. Fortunately, I came to my senses. Call it self-preservation. Call it having people in my life who believed I could do better. Or call it divine providence.

Whatever you call it, my life turned out so much better than it could have had I not figured some things out. Part of that was saying yes to the right man after saying yes to too many of the wrong ones. I’m married 20 years to an incredibly Godly and decent man whom I still love dearly. We have two children who attend high quality public schools. And we live in a lovely home out here on Minnesota’s suburban tundra. A house 3x the size of the one I grew up in.

Once when my mother visited us, we took her to the local July fourth fireworks display at a nearby park. We sat on blankets while our then small kids romped in the grass. She looked around amazed. This city has enough money to pay people to empty trashcans at the park. And residents here have leisure time and enough energy to go to the park. “And look at all of the two-parent families,” she said in awe. The hubs and I were shocked by what shocked her. How had I come to take any of this for granted?

I recently finished reading This is The Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett. It’s an excellent collection of essays, many of which I’d like to pluck out individually and send to friends I think would appreciate them. But a particular line in her essay titled, The Sacrament of Divorce still stands out to me.

“There can be something cruel about those who have had good fortune. They equate it with personal goodness.”

Wow. I must admit that sometimes I actually believe my own good fortune–my rescue from a life more marred by poor decision-making–is somehow the result of my personal goodness. Other times I’m a bit wiser.

Once when I was lecturing my children about how good we have it here compared to other places or to those living in more difficult circumstances or those daily influenced by poorly educated and desperate people, my son asked me, “Why do you think you made it out?”

In my motherly wisdom, I said something like, “I don’t entirely know. But I believe that for some reason God chose me and gave me a second chance. And I don’t want to blow it or waste it. I want SO MUCH to show my gratitude to God by living a good and useful life and giving you every opportunity to live a good and useful life.”

I still believe this but have come to realize that I was only partly right. Because when I shared this story with someone wiser than me, she said, “God chooses everybody.”

Please let that sink in. Know that no matter your circumstance, no matter how badly you’ve screwed things up, God chooses EVERYBODY. There is no limit to His grace, forgiveness and restoration. But sadly, not all choose to respond to God’s grace.

Now I am not silly enough to believe that I will live out my days bathed in good fortune. Patchett has already reminded me that this has little or nothing to do with my personal goodness or striving. (Read the book of Job if you need more insight on the matter.) Only God knows how long good fortune will last. But I do know this, I will go to the house of the Lord today, Ash Wednesday, and I will be reminded of the fragility and shortness of this life. I will be reminded that I come from dust and will one day return to dust. That my good fortune does not equate to my personal goodness and that I should never be cruel to others based on their circumstance or my perception of their personal goodness.

I will be reminded today and throughout the season of Lent that a Holy and Loving God chose me, one lost lamb. And I will keep trying not to blow it but to honor God with my life no matter my circumstance.

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Today I’m a Guest Blogger at WLCYouth@Home…

Words by Angela is not primarily a parenting blog. But I occasionally have some things to say about parenting:

And this is also not primarily a Christian blog. But I occasionally have some things to say about that as well:

And sometimes I’m asked to speak on these combined topics. Today, I’ve done just that as a guest blogger over at WLCYouth@home. I was asked how the hubs and I instill our faith values in our children. I invite you to click over there and read what I had to say and maybe even add your own insight on the matter. Surely you could gain some wisdom or share some. As always, thanks for reading.

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This Little Light of Mine

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Day two of dreary dampness here on the tundra. Folks in my neck of the northern plains can’t really complain though since we’ve been dodging the cold and snow more typical of this time of year. And yet, a sadness looms. Hearts are heavy as grief tries to inch some folks closer to despair. The world fallen. Cruelty, anger and suspicision create a fog that can be difficult to see through.

At least this is how I feel at the moment. Sad for lives lost. Frustrated by injustice. Fearful for the future.

I do not like to feel this way. I search for joy. For hope. I hug my kiddos. And admittedly, I am more excited than ever, at least since I was a child, to prepare my heart and home for Christmas. Truly a season of hope. Seriously, what is taking Thanksgiving so long to get here? I’m ready to get this holiday season started!

I will not grumble about dragging the boxes of decorations from storage. I will not lament a crowded grocery store. I will bake cookies and wrap presents and shine a light in the darkness. I do have power to be a joy-bringer. I may not be able to end the cruelty of hardened hearts or eliminate injustice. But I can offer hope, comfort and kindness to those living near me on this little patch of earth.

I can write notes of encouragement.

I can visit the lonely.

I can prepare food for the hungry.

I can do that thing where I offer to pay for the take-out order of the guy behind me in the drive-through line.

I can be forgiving to family members who irritate me.

I can be gentle with my children.

I can stop wishing for things to be easy and pray for the strength to tackle what is difficult.

I can pray for peace.

I can speak truth in love.

I can write a blog post that says you are loved. Because you are.

I can sing songs to God because I’m reminded of something so profound in a section of Nadia Bolz-Weber’s terrific book, Pastrix, where she says, “Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we can stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim… that death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it.

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Photo by Sarah Dibbern

Be a light for someone today my friends.

 

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Heaven Scent: A Eulogy for a Prayer Warrior

Memorial Day. A traditional day of remembrance. Flowers are placed in cemeteries. Honor is offered for our country’s fallen soldiers. Flags are flown with pride. And a few burgers are grilled for friends. Solemnity intertwined with celebration. Kind of like a funeral.

This past Tuesday, I attended a funeral for the mother of my friend Mary. Her mother, also named Mary, was 94 and some might say it was time. But it’s always sad to lose a loved one, especially a parent. The service was beautiful and reverent. A ritual and spiritual reminder of what followers of Christ live and hope for in this life.

My friend wrote and read a eulogy for her mother. It was so beautiful. So inspiring. So appropriate for Memorial Day–a day that seems fitting to also honor the prayer warriors in our lives.

From Mary~

“One of my first memories of mom was her kneeling at her bed praying. For most of us, all that we say and all that we do will someday fade away. Not many people are recorded in history or have memoirs written. Mom is like that. The meals prepared and set at the table have been consumed – her piano playing has ended. The stories we hold dear to our hearts today will likely be lost.

But mom gave us more than what we can see and taste. Mom prayed. I have asked mom how did you get through your marriage; how could you live at the nursing home and not go crazy. Her answer was consistent. Prayer. Her rosary was never far away. I even saw her hold it while she slept at the hospital. Her life may fade, but her prayers will not.

In prayer we come to God trusting he can hear when we can’t see him. We believe he hears because he’s greater than we are. We believe he answers because of the hope we have.

I’ve taken classes on prayer and I’ve taught prayer. I’ve done research on the rosary. One thing I learned is that rosaries were assembled by whatever was available. The beads have been fashioned by shells, seeds and even rose petals. Some rosaries are still made from roses. I love the thought of a fragrance of prayer left on fingers after holding rose beads. That’s what mom’s legacy is for us… the residue of the fragrance of prayer. Prayer that loves protects hopes and directs. Thanks, mom for that gift to all of us.”

Mary G. Lehman, 1921-2015

Mary G. Lehman, 1921-2015

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