beauty and grace


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I wrote an end of the year reflection for 2016 and only now in April do I feel the courage and peace to post it. Here is it with twitter list and some reflection from my notepad.

A book is meant to be read from beginning to end but best understood from end to beginning. ~Mr. Church

Big things 2016

after several months of constant body pain, an adjustment to medication causing relief, I build a wood awning for the back stairway

Amazing to have something back even for a short time so to remember the gift of labor.

2017: coaching daughter to make a cigar box guitar by herself

converting life insurance from term to accrued plan so that I would still be covered if I live past 70

Never thought 70 was possible. Still think it is a long shot but I am making plans for it.

2017: set long term goals and forgetting about “what if’s”

old and new cohort (esp. the pastor’s group) God Take Me Deeper groups

Legacy for the kingdom and the honor of leading, guiding and walking with those through dark caverns into light.

2017: engage with cohorts, write, empower Jared and Michelle and Sheena

watching daughter apply moves in game time that she practiced for years

This is just for the joy of it. Watching her is my happiness and my heartache.

2017: take her to gym 2x/week with her

the end of my gym membership

No longer able to be comfortable. It is a big loss.

2017: walk and simple home exercise

meeting poet laureate Juan Felipe Herrera who raved over my daughter’s writings

God reminding me again that He has, is, and will always be watching over those important to me.

2017: trust more and live by the truth He has a plan for me and my family

finishing a collection of guitar instrumental video

As my finger crack, tremble and struggle, my mind unable to remember, I wanted something to pass on.

2017: Work on bass ukulele

purging my library

Accepting my limits. An idol let go of but like the gym, it is missed.

2017: listen more to books on tape and music. Be selectively reading.

getting a Japanese cherry blossom tree for MJ’s birthday

She wanted one. It will be wonderful to watch it grow. It reminds me of her.

2017: do more to show her I love her

Joelle telling a group of my close friends she wants to be like me

Those words left me in wonder, swelled with humility and tenderness.

2017: live worthy of that wish and to talk more with her as a budding adult

Philippians 1:20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me. 27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

 Write on me Oh Author of life. As you have scribed so many chapters before, this year continue your story in me. May these pages continually reflect your mystery, your adventure, your joy, your strength, your grace.

“God never uses a person greatly until He has wounded him deeply. The privilege He offers you is greater than the price you have to pay. The privilege is greater than the price.” —Helen Roseveare

These are my twitter account tweaks as I continue my 2016 reflections.

  • 12/01/16 My spirit, I realize, has been whispering, “Do what You will to me but leave her alone.” I repent of such a false view of my God and glory, life and meaning.
  • 10/17/06 I wish my hands didn’t shake and my knuckles didn’t lock up on me when I played guitar. I wish my eyes didn’t have blind spots and not be able to see the fine details when I work on making something in the garage. I wish I didn’t lose my breath and hear my knees crack and feel my calves cramp each time I get out of bed. I wish I didn’t lose my thought the moment after I feel inspired and want to write it down or forget what the conversation was yesterday and try desperately to remember what I am to do today.
    But don’t you dare feel sorry for me. For I do play my guitar. I do work in my garage. I do get out of bed. I do write. I take care of what I have to do today. And that is the gift. I just do it slower. I take more time. I rest more. I use more post-its. And somehow it means more to me than those many years I took for granted the gift. It means more because I am so much more aware.
    If I can’t today, I wait for tomorrow.
    Eventually tomorrow comes.

7/10/16
Grief and Gratitude
I stand between two worlds
One so deeply broken
Pain and sadness surrounds
It’s very fibers erode
Disintegrating before my eyes
The other so glorious
Joy and laughter reigns
With incorruptible fields
Everlasting and indestructible
I live in one
I taste the other
Sometimes overwhelmed
By one or both
Too many ways to pursue
Temporary relief of the pain
Avoiding the true work
Of grief and repentance
A forgetful mind
A distracted heart
Without a will to stay
Focus on the land ahead
The mystery is this
Belonging to both
One foot on each land
Brokenness and glory
He’s stood in-between
From glory to broken
So to bring us
From broken to glory
In his brokenness
There is grief and gratitude
In his glory
There is lament and praise
So I walk in grief and gratitude
One dependent on the other
And in this in-between
I am transformed
This is the movement of the walk
Between the cross and the resurrection
And the walk changes me

6/2/06
As this next stage of life begins how then should I live?
I start counting the years, months even days when J will be off to college. I am that way. I think, “What do I have left in my service to her as her dad?” It is ever changing as she grows in independence and in the many stages she will go through. September I turn 60. When she finishes high school I will be 65. More crucial to this perspective is that I would have walked in life with this chronic illness over 25 years at that time. Something that reduces me continually but has not yet destroyed me.
In my spirit I have cried out for years, “Don’t take me yet. She needs me.” And for whatever lies in the grace of God’s heart, I am still here. When the prognosis was 5 years, I have 4xs surpassed it.
With 60 around the corner I am starting to be tired of the race. I have set my resolve for a few more tasks, leaving a mark for the Kingdom of God and a legacy for my daughter. For the first time a few days ago I have let myself entertain the idea that I can go if the Lord so tarried. So much of my strength is reduced, so few things I do satisfies and in a few years J will be off to college and a full fledge adult. Yet this morning my wife tells me, “I am afraid of living without you.” And I realize staying is important for it just J but for MJ as well. It is it time for me to entertain the end but to fight on tithe very last breath.
I am overwhelmed. Some with burden and some with grief. I want back what I lost and then some. I want the comfort and company complete of my Savior.
I thought in 6 years I could let go but I think I still need to passionately fight to stay. For both of them.
Trust you with the challenges you give to me. Trust you with the challenges you give both to my wife and my daughter.
I am presenting again to you myself as a living sacrifice as I have once again crawled off the altar.
Grant me the grace dear God.

Dad’s role plays out in so many forms throughout the year. Sometimes multiple forms simultaneously. Having the savvy to move throughout the forms requires the grace of God and models of others in our lives.

“Love is a roof.” Love bears all things.

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(I wrote this in the days following my 92 year old mom admission to a nursing home. It was my soul processing)

There is a saying from the Good Book: You reap what you sow. (Gal. 6:7) Some sow trouble… The Book says, Those who sow with trouble reap it. (Job 4:8) Some sow with generosity… The Book says, Those who sow with generousity will reap also generously. (2 Cor. 9:6) Some sow with tears… The Book says, Those who goes out weeping carry seed to sow, will return with songs of joy carrying sheaves with her. (Psalm 126:6)

My mom loved her garden and planted many seeds. She planted for beauty. She planted for love. She planted for joy. And that’s what grew in her garden- beauty, love and joy.

There were times when strangling weeds came up in the soil of the garden. Weeds that devourer the nutrients of all the soil. So other plants were in danger of destruction. The weeds looked deceptively attractive at times. So it can be confused with the flowers. But left to themselves they would go out of control and take over all the garden. Fortunately mom realized this and worked hard at getting rid of these weeds, painfully pulling them out one by one. Thus she saved her garden.

One day, mom was offered a very special seed as a gift. It came with a promise that it would increase the beauty, love and joy of the garden. It would be a magnificent tree, the centerpiece of her garden. It would endure when all other plants and flowers withered.

Mom grew to love this tree. It provided shade for her to rest under and fruit for her to enjoy. She shared her garden freely to many people, often making baskets of fruit and flowers for visitors to take home.

Gardening got more and more difficult as she grew older. It became much more painful for her to get on her knees and weed. Many of the flowers and plants withered. Mom was so sad.

But the tree remained strong. And under its shade she found beauty, love and joy. The Book says, He is the Vine and we are the branches. The branches bears fruit as it abides in the Vine. (John 15:5) The Book also says, The world and its desires pass away but those one who does the will of God lives forever. And, This is the will of my Father, to believe in Me. (John 6:29)

The tree sustained her life here. Her faith in that Tree gives her life beyond this one.

I imagine one day, when my mom is in heaven, she will have a garden where there is beauty, love and joy.

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At Grace Conference 2013
How God is about the business of defining us.

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A young girl, I would guess junior high age, came up to me after my last workshop on God, what are you doing to me?. She said thank you and that she learned a lot and got a lot out of it. I asked her what did she get out of it. She responded that she lacks self-confidence and has felt defective for quite some time (how long is quite some time when you are in junior high). She liked that I spoke about God redefining her and stripping her of these broken inscriptions placed upon her. She liked that God wanted to bring beauty and power within her.

I was touched with how much she was paying attention and that she was moved by the stories I shared and by the activities I led them in. Each had started the first day with a piece of clay about the size of a one year old’s fist. I had them inscribe their broken names and told them God seeks to redefine us into a new name that comes out of the spirit of Belovedness. The next day I had them identify their compromised solutions they use in dealing with these inscribed cracks on their lives and in what ways do they wear masks to cover it. Then on the last day I had them remove the clay and find what is inside which was a little treasure chest with a white stone in it. On the stone I wrote ahead of time a specific name for each clump of clay (prayerfully I asked God to lead me in coming up with these names and that each specific clump would get to the right attendee).

So I asked her what was the name on her stone. She said “Adored”. I smiled and told her to pray that God would make that real in her life and to find confidence coming out of this reality rather than the false inscriptions that has marked her.

Walking away from that moment, my heart was so moved and reminded that God is involved in speaking into the lives of people I speak to. He goes way farther than what I can possibly do.

That is grace at work.

The essence of grace is power and beauty.
That is enough for me.

lessismore

One of the great works God done to me was 17 years ago by breaking my body.
I was reduced so that I can be more fit.
Lesser to be greater.
I have been reduced and in it left with choices focusing on the most important activities: love and joy. When they work together, I am most satisfied.

A year prior to that breaking, now over 18 years ago, He gave me the wonderful gift of my bride to walk with me through it all.
Many fears.
Many tears.
She was with me and patiently took on the load that I could not bear.
And help me know, I am not alone.

The breaking and the beauty.
I am a better man because of both.

It was when I was happiest that I longed most…. The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all the beauty came from.—Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

iambeautiful

One night I overheard my daughter and wife having a difficult exchange. My daughter, Joelle was crying profusely. My wife, MJ, was trying so hard to console Joelle who was upset because she was convinced that she was not beautiful. Nothing MJ said would comfort her. I looked at MJ to get a signal that it was okay for me to step in (didn’t want to intrude on her connection with Joelle). She gave me a nod okay and I proceeded to step in.

I went on to ask where she got that thought that she was not. She said she didn’t know. Was it from others? She couldn’t say. Was it from watching media? Didn’t know. All she knew is that she was convinced that she was not beautiful.

My heart broke. It is not something any dad wants their child to believe. I am sure it is the same way for mothers. Initially, I thought of those modern day pop psychology songs “I am beautiful” and verses such as Psalm 139:14-15 about being “fearfully and wonderfully made”. But something stirred me to take a different route. I told her “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

She didn’t know what that meant. We explored it together. I went on to tell her that beauty is something decided by the one observing not by the object itself. Therefore, beauty is not universally agreed upon. Someone may think one thing is beautiful and another think not so. My example is this shirt of mine my wife and I constantly (and humorously) argue about its beauty. I think it is great. She thinks it is deplorable (well she never said that but won’t let me ever wear it, presently hiding it from me). Probably many would be on her side. I may be the only one who thinks it is beautiful. In my eyes it is.

We went on to talk about do we want to try to be beautiful in everyone’s eyes. That would be constantly frustrating and disappointingly painful. Then who would we want to see us as beautiful?

Joelle said “God.”
“Yes” I responded. “Anyone else?”
“Mom and dad.”
“And guess what? Mom, dad and God already see you as beautiful. We are energized by the truth that God sees us as beautiful. We can be at peace that He is pleased with us as we trust in Him. And it feels good to have the knowledge that mom and dad sees us as beautiful too.”

It was one of those many landmark moments we had with her. And it speaks to a great truth. Getting value out of being valued by another. Nothing in creation has innate value. It is given. The world says validate yourself. Can try getting it from others (o I dread the day she seeks it from boys. that’s where the uncles will be sitting at the front porch waiting for that poor boy coming to see her). You can try mimicking the world.

But none is a reliable source.
All others are unreliable.
Only God is reliable.

The word Grace in Hebrew means “being seen favorably”. It is being the apple of one’s eyes. God’s eyes.
My hope is that Joelle seeks the validation that only God can give to her. Nowhere and no one else.

“Who made these beautiful changeable things, if not unchangeable Beauty?” St. Augustine

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