Permission to Take a Break

I’m driving by news vans and reporters, and in the midst of more frenzy, this town feels so tired.   

My students slump over their notebooks, eyes dark and heavy.  They tell me they can’t wait to just go home.  We talk about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes and their family traditions, and we find ourselves smiling for the first time in days.  Go home. Take a break, I tell them.  Sleep well; eat well.

We can’t move on from the scandal around us, but we can rest and refresh for the battle ahead.

It feels wrong to enjoy a light-hearted moment today. As I think about my conflicting emotions, I consider how important it is to refresh during crisis and suffering.

We have permission to take a break.  

I recall Psalm 23 and another Dark Valley.  I notice the importance of resting–of lying down–and refreshing in order to stay strong for the work ahead. 

 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
 3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
   for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
   for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
   they comfort me.
 5 You prepare a table before me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
   my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
   all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
   forever.

Living with flair means you let yourself be led to green pastures and quiet waters when you’re in a Dark Valley. I’m so thankful that God will prepare a good table.

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How do you find the “green pastures” when you are in Dark Valley?

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The Weeping Cherry Speaks

My husband calls me over to the Weeping Cherry because a bright red cardinal hides within its branches.  He flies away before I see him.

The gloom settles on the tree; it too chokes and freezes with each news release surrounding Penn State.

This isn’t going away.  It shouldn’t.

I observe that little tree and notice the black bare center.  Stripped down to the core, the tree offers nothing but its own naked shame.

You can’t wish the season away or ignore it.  You can’t imagine your way out of it.

But you can hope.

I stand by the Weeping Cherry, and I think of all the ways shame turns glorious.  We aren’t who we thought we were!  The glorious revelation that we can’t ignore stands:  sin is real.  The ancient story stands!

We’ve fallen short of glory in a million ways: Those who tease Penn State students have failed in their mockery.  Those who detach from the pain have failed in their denial. Those who move on have failed in their lack of compassion for victims who never, never move on.  Those who insist they would have acted differently have failed in their self-righteousness. 

Who hasn’t–when laid bare before a Holy God–failed?

The Weeping Cherry will stay in the stark reality of failure for all the time it takes.  And, at just the right time, the sun will pierce through and send it blooming.

How glorious it will be!

_____________________
Journal:  How has Penn State’s scandal affected you?   

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A Broken Umbrella

I’m sloshing through this rainy Tuesday in my yellow boots.  I carry an enormous blue and white umbrella–big enough to cover at least 5 people.  One side of my umbrella dangles awkwardly, broken from years of abuse from high winds.

I look on with envy at folks who have very small, tightly domed umbrellas that fit securely over their heads and fall just above their purses or backpacks:  unbroken, private, and effective in keeping one person protected.

Why would I want a big, broken umbrella when I could have a perfect, made-for-one version that covers me fully?  That’s the way to stay safe in this storm.   

Isolated!  Secure!  Proud!

It only appears beneficial.  As I think more about that perfect umbrella, I think of the loneliness that security brings.  I don’t want to be alone in that perfect umbrella; I want you here with me under this broken one.

Let’s walk in this storm together and stay vulnerable.  We’ll have to cling tightly. We’ll have to feel the rain.  But we’re together and more safe than we could imagine. 

 _____________________
 Isn’t community a beautiful thing?

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We Are. . . Family

I’m packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child to send to a child I’ll never see and never meet.  I tell my daughters to imagine that child is family

Suddenly, we realize the difference it makes when you see someone as family.  She’s our daughter!  He’s our brother!

What would change? 
 
Packing that shoebox helped me realize why we hurt so badly here at Penn State. Happy Valley grieves so collectively and so deeply because we function as a family, and we see keenly where we have failed to love as a family.  The victims are part of our family; the shame we feel as a group stems from realizing people that were part of our family committed horrific crimes.    

This is how we should feel.  I wish I felt this way about the whole world.  We belong to one another. 

Today, the students come together as family with a new hope, and this video below gives you a sense of what’s happening here:

 

Living with flair means we expand our definition of family.  When a child suffers, we all suffer.  When one person sins, it affects all of us.  But when even one of us acts with courage and love, we all benefit.

We belong to each other. 

___________________

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Turning the Page at Penn State

I watch with my own eyes how two rival teams come together midfield, kneel, and pray for several minutes while fans watch on in tears.

“Is this normal?” I ask my husband since I don’t know everything about football.

“No, this isn’t normal,” he says, as we watch grown, powerful men bow before God in prayer. 

For once, the media silences themselves before a holy moment. 

If critics have said Penn State is a microcosm for everything that’s wrong with the world today, I suggest that Penn State moving forward is a microcosm for what hope and healing look like:  You come together; you get on your knees in humility, and you pray.

Something beautiful just happened in this little town.

__________________________ 

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Torn Apart, Water Flows

I’m volunteering in my daughter’s classroom today. 

Surrounded by flowers, magnifying glasses, and scissors, I’m told I should let the children observe, draw, and then tear the flowers apart for scientific purposes. 

“There’s juice in here!” One boy cries and squeezes out the insides of the flower’s stem.   “There’s lots of juice in here, but it smells like asparagus.”  He passes the stem around to let the others share in his discovery. 

“Did you know,” another boy claims, “that if you cut a cactus in half, you could drink all the juice inside and live for days in the desert? Did you know that?” 

“I’m so relieved!” I say.  “We wouldn’t die out there.  We’d find a cactus and slurp all the juice.” 

“We’d be OK,” the children say, comforted by the thought of it.

We would.  I look at flowers and stems cut to pieces around me.  At that point of destruction, water flows.  We keep tearing, and I think, “Even in the desert, we’d survive.”

We’re all nodding together as water seeps onto our magnifying glasses, our fingers, and even our desks. 

We will survive.  No matter what the drought, we will.  Torn apart, water flows. 

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Penn State needs continued prayer.  Thank you. 

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Deep in the Heart of Man

This morning, the neighborhood children call me over to a huge, gaping hole in the earth.  Construction workers have dug down so deep, you can see sewage lines exposed.  With this rare vantage point, we peer into the secret inner workings of our town.  Even under the most beautiful lawns and gardens, excrement flows. 

It’s not very pretty.

I think about sewage in the human heart as I remember the truth in Ecclesiastes 7:20:  “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins.” 

I can’t escape the reality of sin today.  On this day, I cry on the bus with others who sit in complete silence as they think about innocent boys abused; as they think about authority figures they mistrust; as they think about a beloved coach who said he wished he’d done more; as they think about their own angered response in rioting.  

I go back and peer inside the hole with my daughter beside me.  This is the truth about our hearts.  This is why we so desperately need a Savior

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Thank you for praying for our community today.

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