Thursday, July 15, 2010

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

I have this verse taped on the bulletin board above my desk with various other notes, artwork from my kids and pictures that are important to me. Over the last few weeks it seems as if I’ve needed that reminder over and over again – the reminder that there is nothing, nothing at all that can separate us from the love of God.

While this promise is reassuring, sometimes I wish there was more to it. As some of you know, one of my other favorite (and least favorite in some ways) stories in the bible is the story of the two builders. You might remember this story from the Sunday School song (if you don’t, you can check it out in your bibles – Matthew 7:24-28) that someone always seems to sing when the story comes up. This is the story of the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and foolish man who built his house upon the sand. It is another one of the great parables that Jesus uses to teach us, and I think the message is one we need to hear again and again. You see the beauty in this story is that the same storms came to the wise man and the foolish man. If you read this in your bible, you’ll see that the same words are used – the rains poured down, the rivers flooded and winds beat against that house – the only real difference is that the wise man’s house stays strong.

Here is where my love/hate relationship with this story begins. It becomes clear that God doesn’t promise us a life free of storms. I wish it said that the wise man, who built his house on the rock, lived happily ever after with perfect sunny days – but it doesn’t. The same storms that came to the foolish man, came to the wise man. God’s promise in this story, is that God will carry us through the storms that come our way, so that when the storms end, we will be standing. It really is the promise that goes back to Romans 8 – that nothing can separate us from God’s amazing love.

Will there be storms? Absolutely. Sometimes it seems like they are all around us. Over the last several weeks I’ve cried with a friend who has a scary diagnosis looming in her future. I’ve been following several people’s journeys with serious illness and death, sometimes sudden, and always seemingly unfair. I’ve been honored to be a part of these journeys. There are people and places struggling with natural disaster, poverty and hunger. Sometimes these storms can feel overwhelming. Then, in the midst of it all you begin to see the light beginning to shine through the clouds. The light comes in the form of kind words from a friend, in communities coming together to support those who are hurting, in a hug when you needed it most and through the Word of God that speaks to you time and time again. In those moments we begin to see the ways God has helped us through the storms. We begin to see the people that were placed in our lives to help us. We emerge from the storm, still standing.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Talking to kids about Tragedy

In the job that I have, I've had a lot of conversations lately with parents about how to talk to their kids about great "tragedies" - everything from the disaster in Haiti to a death in the family or even a divorce. Marilyn Sharpe write this great article that I found to be very helpful!


None of us want our children to know loss or pain, suffering or tragedy. We'd like to insulate them from illness, injury, death, terrorism, and natural disaster. We'd love to preserve their innocence. But that isn't possible.

In this decade alone, parents have had to deal with 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami that devastated the South Pacific, war in Iraq and Afganistan., terrorism, plane crashes, school shootings, injustice, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, and the death of a dream.

Now, we face the horror of enormous magnitude in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Haiti - photos of desolation, stories of heartbreaking loss, the sheer scale of the devastation.

And, what about the children?

As parents, we have no control over the losses our children will experience, but we can be present with children in times of loss and sorrow, teaching them how to live in and through the hardest times. Adults must be their age-appropriate filters and their wise guides.

What better gift can you give your child than helping them learn to handle loss and tragedy: name it, grieve it, find hope in God's presence and promises, and respond with generosity and care. But, how? Here are a few suggestions:

" Telling them that this is God's plan. (God does not cause death and destruction, but promises to be with us in the midst of loss. God brings hope and a future.) " Watching televised accounts, hour after hour. Young children, not understanding replays, assume that the tragedy happens over and over again.
" Talking about it obsessively within earshot of children.
" Assuming kids won't hear, see, or understand the tragedy.
" Denying, diminishing, or demeaning the loss.
" Insulating them from the loss.
" Tell children, simply, in age-appropriate language, what has happened. Let them hear it from you.
" Name the loss.
" Be present with them.
" Listen to them.
" Answer questions honestly. Sometimes, that answer is "I don't know."
" Name their feelings and give them permission to feel what they feel.
" Grieve it together.
" Imbed them in a community of love, hope and faith.
" Tell and model for them the hope we have in Jesus Christ, who has promised to be with us always, that this life isn't the end of the story.
" Pray.
Do service that makes a difference to others.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

So sick of politics!

I usually try to keep my mouth shut when it comes to politics. I have strong feelings on certain issues, just like the next people - but I also have a deep affection for my friends and family, who sometimes hold a different view from my own. Day after day I read blogs, and e-mails and facebook posts from my friends who feel very passionate about their own views and I admit it, instead of "making waves" I keep my mouth closed. I'm not sure if this is the best tactic, but it is what I do.

See the thing is, I think as a society we've forgotten how to "disagree" or debate issues in an effective and intellectual way. Disagreeing with someone is felt as an attack on their character or launches into a lot of yelling and not a lot of listening.

This is partly what discourages me today in the world of politics - the name calling, the falsehoods, the lack of common decency for one another and a basic lack of respect is very troubling to me.

I have friends on both end of the political spectrum. I consider them to all be intelligent, decent people who try very hard to do the "right thing". As a matter of fact, most of them are people who have a deep faith as well - and their faith influences their decisions - which, believe it or not, means we can still land on opposite ends of an issue, and we can both feel that our faith played a part in that decision.

This stuff isn't easy - I frankly sometimes wonder how anyone can identify themselves strongly with one party, because, frankly my thoughts on issues don't fall neatly down any party line, and many of the people I talk to seem to feel the same way. So we keep quiet, unable to fully throw ourselves behind any party and then unsure about whether or not we are doing the right thing.

I admit it, time and time again I compose scathing and witty comebacks to political posts of my friends on Facebook, and then feeling satisfied in my "venting" session I promptly delete my ramblings before posting. Is it because I don't feel passionately about the issue. Certainly not, but I also care deeply about my friends (even those that I may disagree about) and I usually figure that it isn't helpful. If these conversations could all be had by people with mutual respect for each other - it might change the whole tone of politics - because truly, I want to understand the other side even if I don't agree with that. If I don't agree I don't think the other person is dumb - I just feel that we have different priorities or opinions, and THAT IS OK.

I am constantly reminded that it isn't my place to judge other people - I'll leave that up to God. Is it my place to make the world a better place for all God's children - I'd like to think so - but certainly, attacking one another isn't going to help make that happen.

I'll close - I'm not sure why I'm writing this, because I don't even know that anyone would read it (why would they - it has been 7 months since I last posted) - but mostly because today I've written and deleted so many responses, that I had to vent somewhere.... :)