Saturday, December 15, 2012


I’m not sure why I feel the need to hear every detail of every horrible tragedy, why I glue myself to CNN waiting on baited breath to hear the particulars of why, how and what next, and why I have to discuss it at length with those around me.  And I’m not sure why, in the wake of the Connecticut shooting I cannot tear my thoughts away from those sweet angels and their grieving families even for an instant.  I’m not sure if it’s healthy, normal, necessary or justified.  Some say the media sensationalizes tragedies such as this.  I wouldn’t disagree.  Yet still I can’t seem to turn off the television.  And so, in nothing more than mere curiosity, I pose this question to myself and ask for a bit of guidance from above.  

Perhaps in my anger I want to ensure that justice somehow prevails.  Or on a smaller scale, that we, as a country, learn some grand lesson, affect some sort of change, or alter the course of future tragedies.  Perhaps I, as a mother of two small children myself, feel that if I can grieve just a little bit more it would somehow lessen the unbearable suffering of the ones who lost their babies.  Let’s be honest, I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to answer the question of why and so it may be more realistic to tackle the question of where.  Where is God in a horrific tragedy like the massacre of 20 innocent first graders in Newtown, Connecticut and seven other innocent souls?  I think if I can answer this question in a way that satisfies my restless soul, I may be able to sleep for an hour or two tonight.  

It’s funny how I always tend to condense my feelings into four simple words.  Every diatribe on suffering and loss begins with, “There are no words.”  But the truth is there ARE words.  There are words of anger, bitterness and frustration, though they most likely won’t surface until later in the grieving process.  There are words of agony, torment and anguish.  And though it’s tough to admit, there may even be words of desperation and hopelessness.  “How can I go on?  Can I go on?”  I can only hope those words are met with quiet whispers from our Heavenly Father that gently offer solace and hope.  In Psalm 22:24 we are reminded that “...he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”  There are words to describe how most of us view the shooter, none of which I can put down on paper.  But if I’m honest with myself and can see beyond the anger to the word of God I cling to in these times, perhaps I can find some words of grace and understanding to deal with those.  The reality is that even the most heinous and unimaginable crimes can be met with mercy and forgiveness in the Heavenly courts.  

The truth is that when tragedy strikes, God is right there in the middle of it.  We need only to call His name and open our eyes.  And when we, in our finite, weakened state cannot find the words, it is then that He speaks to us and through us.  2 Corinthians 4:8-11 encourages us, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.  For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
So I must say that has always been one of my favorite scriptures, because I love the jars of clay analogy.  It’s true, when we are cracked and broken, the light of Jesus shines through, but we have to choose to allow it to do so and that’s not always easy.  As I typed that verse, the line “not driven to despair” really struck me, because as a mommy it is so easy for me to be driven to despair.  When the innocence of children can be snatched in an instant, when I no longer feel safe sending my babies to school and I’m faced with the grim reality that the two sleeping darlings in the next room could easily have been among the 20 precious angels who lost their lives yesterday, when the fear and anxiety wells up within me to the point that I can barely breathe, despair seems to be the only emotion that fits.  And I suppose the only way I can answer back is to trust in the divinity of a God who is bigger than my fleeting emotions, bigger than the ensuing debate over gun control, bigger than our need to understand and most certainly big enough to fill the hole that’s left behind.  So as I grapple with the “Why” and “How” and “What Now?” and cannot help but picture the faces of those sweet, sweet angels, I’ll remind myself that my God lost a child also and did it willingly, for me.  

We will rightly and eternally mourn the loss of all the victims.  We will pray as a nation for the ones they left behind, for healing, for comfort, and for sweet memories to forever fill the halls of their homes.  And as their mommies and daddies justifiably long for one last smile as they arrive home from school, their Heavenly Father will now greet them at the door.  And I imagine as they gaze upon His lovely face, bursting at the seams they will excitedly announce, “Hi Daddy, I’m home!”  And they are now...home in His presence, home in His tender embrace, home in His kingdom eternally, and home forever in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The View from the Middle

There are very few things I can actually control in this life.  For instance, I can totally bypass the dollar section at the bullseye boutique (no thanks to those fabulous higher-ups whose strategic marketing landed it smack-dab at the front of the store!) and save myself $2,117.  I can shut off the tele, spend some quality time with the kiddos, save them a brain cell or two, and let some other mommy keep the network afloat by allowing a super hyper, faithless yellow sponge to babysit her little darlings.  I can even choose to forego a half hour argument over why it isn’t okay to flatten the kitty’s ears while he’s sleeping in exchange for five minutes of me-time.  I cannot, however, manipulate the weather, affect real change on capitol hill (let’s face it, I am a Republican in the state of California after all), force the San Diego Chargers to actually finish a drive on any given Sunday, or convince the princess that the potty is a necessary evil.  But there is one thing I have only recently come to recognize as entirely within my control.  So today I wave my magic wand (which oddly resembles a spatula these days), snap my ponytail, twitch my nose, and wait for the magic to happen.  Wait for it...wait for it...wait for it...sorry, I had to refill my wine glass.  Here it is: you, actually have the ability to change the way you view your circumstances and consequently, tip the needle on your joy meter a bit to the right.  And yes, I said joy meter.  I can say it another way if you’d like.  You can change the song that’s playing in the depths of your soul from “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” to “Here Comes the Sun.”  Some call it a worldview or filter.  I like to refer to it as the gift of perspective.  And believe me, it is truly a gift that we have been given...the ability to look at any situation and process it any way we’d like.  We can control our own capacity for joy based purely on how we choose to see things.  So the next time your dolphin floaties spring a leak and you find yourself struggling to stay afloat, ask yourself, “How’s the view from down here?”

Is the mountain insurmountable, an obstacle so large to even contemplate tackling it would be physically exhausting?  Or is it possible the view from the top is so breathtakingly gorgeous the journey to get there seems like a walk in the park?  Are you a victim or a vessel?  Do you view the challenges of life as suffocating and unbearable, believing the only way to avoid another heartbreak is to become fast friends with your pillow for 24 hours a day?  Are you a seemingly innocent bystander, never quite able to crawl out from under the rock or find a solid footing in constantly shifting sand, always searching for the pity party around the corner in need of a guest of honor?  Or are you a vessel, relishing the tough times as opportunities for spiritual, emotional and intellectual growth?  It is quite possible that in these times, God has given you a rare opportunity to speak on His behalf, to sing praises in the rain - or perhaps, a torrential downpour at times - to send some glory His way and redefine faith.  How do you see things?

Are you certain the homeless man on the corner is really in it for the vodka or is there a distinct possibility he may actually possess enough humility to stand on a street corner with carefully chosen words that never seem to say enough scrawled on a cardboard sign and beg for help, soul exposed to ridicule and judgment from random passers-by who justify their ambivalence by telling themselves, “I don’t have any cash anyway.”  How do you see things?

Have you arrived at the intersection of bitterness and ungrace, certain that the ones who have hurt you - intentionally and unintentionally - are forever undeserving of forgiveness?  Have you hardened your heart so successfully not even the angriest bird can penetrate the fortress you’ve built?  Or by some small miracle, have you seen beyond the betrayal to the hurt in the ones who have hurt you, knowing somewhere deep inside they too are wounded souls longing for someone or something to fill the void?  How do you see things?

Do you see things through filtered lenses, as the world wants you to see them?  As the politicians want you to see them?  As your family wants you to see them?  Or do you see them through rose-colored glasses, tinted red as the blood of Jesus, holy and pure, true and unchanging, powerful and eternal?  Might I suggest there is enough heartache and pain in this life without adding fuel to the fire.  Next time the tendency to fan the flames kicks in, perhaps you should douse it with water instead.  Trust me, there is enough to reduce it to a pile of smoldering ashes - the glass is more than half full in God’s house!  For once, if not always, silence the critics and your own accusing voice and tune in to the sweet, sweet voice you hear when you find yourself falling.  Let the words of a loving savior ring in your ears.   “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

And because I haven’t met my question mark quota in this little diatribe, I’ve got one more for you.  When your pace slows and your doubt increases, ask yourself, “Am I a weary traveler on a road wrought with speed bumps and potholes or am I wounded warrior whose faith in something bigger simply will not allow me to believe life’s hurdles are meant to trip me up rather than build me up.”  If only for a moment, allow yourself to believe you have a loving Father who desires nothing less than the best for His children, the most coveted glittering prize, a precious gift, an eternity in Heaven with you (yes, you).  His grace is sufficient, His word is true, His love is extravagant, and the view from up there is always unfiltered.