Brokenhearted Mary

JesusTomb

Matthew 20 – 11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb.12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  -ESV

Mary was in despair. We can only imagine all of the emotions Mary had spilling out of her. Fear? Sadness? Confusion? Anger? This may have been the darkest moment in her life.  When you weep, it’s not a controlled thing that is an appointment on your calendar.  There isn’t an on or off switch that allows you to calmly dab the tears from the corners of your eyes.  Emotion takes over, and there is nothing you can do but let it flow.

Earlier in this same passage, Mary Magdalene had discovered that the body of Jesus was gone, and she had not been able to make sense of it.  After running and telling some disciples who also came to see, they left her, and she was once again alone at the tomb without answers.  Mary was more than sad, she was heartbroken.  She couldn’t make sense of the situation, and the people she had gone to for help had essentially abandoned her without peace  in her heart.  Jesus was brutally murdered by the Romans (and still dead in her mind), and she could only assume that now someone had stolen his corpse too.  The insult on top of  the agony was just too much.

Have you ever wept?  Not just cried, but wept?  It’s the type of pain that is more than just losing control of the liquid spilling out of your eyes and nose.  Your entire body heaves in nearly uncontrollable fashion.  You do more than cry, you groan and your muscles ache.  Some people may even lose the ability to stand up or keep any food in their stomach, and essentially they become a very unflattering heap laying on the floor like a bag of convulsing human bones and flesh. When someone weeps, the pain is so real that your entire body heaves in distress.

This morning while spending some time listening to scripture, this little passage caught my attention.  Not only because Mary was in agony, but because of how the angels questioned her (I wonder why they were there), and then because of what happened next.  I love how Jesus met her while she was in emotional turmoil, spoke with her (I would love to know how different he looked to her), and gave her the honor of telling others of his resurrection.  Mary was not someone who at that moment likely looked like she was stoic and had it altogether.  But it was someone that loved him, looked for him, and knew she was lost and brokenhearted without him.  All at once he gave her hope, joy, and something to do to honor him which was of tremendous importance.

Matthew 20 –14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.” -ESV

 

 

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Empathy is Painful

My wife had been speaking to me for a few minutes, and what she was describing filled me with nervous energy.  I had started with lots of eye contact, and I wanted to hear her.  But after a few moments I suddenly felt the need to listen while also doing something else.  Anything else.   Suddenly, the cords peeking out from behind the TV needed me to press them back into formation.  The pillow that had fallen off the bed needed me to put it back.  And needed me to fluff it.  The shoes on the floor needed me to move them to the closet, and a nearby shirt needed me to hang it while I was there. I was listening, but I wasn’t wanting too.  I couldn’t stand to hear how much pain she was in. I was subconsciously trying to be empathetic and escape at the same time.

I love my wife dearly, but this sometimes translates into being pained in my heart when I slow down enough to be fully present and contemplate the very serious and sometimes life-threatening ailments that have been a part of our life the past several years.  Her illnesses drain her physically and emotionally, and when you love someone…their real pain is often your real pain.  Hers is physical, but mine is in my heart.  And my heart breaks again, and again for her.  So though I wanted to hear her discuss what was very real and hard for her to be experiencing, I was also foolishly trying to protect myself from totally feeling it with her. It was an unplanned and ultimately failed attempt at a sort of guarded hybrid empathy.  It sounds stupid now but trust me, it made sense at the time.

After a few minutes she suddenly stopped talking for a few seconds, changed her tone, and passionately said “Do you understand how discouraged I am?”  There wasn’t judgement, though she could have also said that she wasn’t sure if I was really listening, or asked me to resume eye contact.  I stopped moving around, realizing that she probably felt like she was just talking to the wall.  I looked into her eyes again, and lovingly repeated back a quick summary of everything she had been sharing about the latest crisis her body was struggling through (I really was listening with my ears and heart, but it hadn’t looked like it!).

She thanked me.  I apologized for being busy while she spoke. And then I simply did the only other thing I could do at the moment, by giving her a gentle kiss and hug, and reminded her how sorry I am that she is in pain. I said, “I would take this pain from you if you could hand it over.”  She said, “I know.,” and there was a little more peace in her eyes despite the physical pain of her body.   At that point the conversation was over. We sat together silently for a few more moments.

Since I can’t take on my wife’s sickness for her, the next best thing I can do is to be compassionate and empathetic. I have not the gift of healing people like Christ did in his earthly ministry, but I can model the many times he lovingly took pity on the sick and needy around him. He was and is God, yet He modeled a tender heart, and spent much time with people that needed him fully present. He looked upon and felt their pain.  Of course, Jesus also took this to the next level in even taking on the burden of sin from those who trust him, by dying a guilty mans death on the cross.  Thankfully, death could not hold Him!

Practically, this means I can and should listen to Marque share about her serious ailments, even when it hurts my heart.  It means that I need to accept that my heart is going to hurt in her times of tender of sharing. It means I need to be fully present, looking in her eyes. Holding her hand. Sitting in times of silence when words will only agitate.  It means, I’m experiencing the “to have and to hold in sickness and in health” in a very personal and sometimes painful way.  To me, it also means that this regular experience is also one of the few times when I’m truly loving her and God with all that is within me.  Even when it hurts.

 

 

 

 

Disappointment

Expecting a yes, you were  told no. Disappointment.

What was thought to possibly be a good friend, ended up being an opportunist who cares little for you personally. Disappointment.

You thought you might have  been given a large raise, but instead received cutting remarks and questionable job security.  Disappointment.

Someone whom you believed had great integrity, instead had greatly hidden sin. Disappointment.

Life is frequently disappointing.  In fact, I know people who are or have recently been through each of the disappointing situations from above. These are not questions of faith in Jesus, but they are times so painful, turning to Jesus for comfort seems like the only option not involving substance abuse!

I’m disappointed right now as I commit these thoughts into words.  Without getting into the minutia of her unique challenges, please know that my wife of nearly two decades is the love of my life.  Sadly, she has large and repeated health failures that cause her to miss moments and chunks of life that she would never skip on purpose. She has seen numerous medical professionals, and they are stumped as to how to help her.
She spends 5 days a week mostly in bed, and she is disappointed.   I miss her all the time when life marches on, and she is too sick to function. I’m disappointed.  Tonight, two of our sons will play in school basketball games in front of crowds of people yelling their names…and it brings me to tears that she may not be able to attend either game.  At times I am more than disappointed, I’m heartbroken. Is this sounding like Eeyore yet?

We plead with the Lord.  We see medical professionals more often than we would like. Godly people have prayed over her.
God hasn’t answered our requests the way would like yet.  I’m reminded of the Lord’s reply to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9 … “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Here’s the deal though: I want His grace.  I want his power to be made perfect.  But in weakness?  Ouch. I love sports, but I was late to puberty, so I was smaller and slower then most the other boys in school for a couple of years.  I took a lot of abuse in that time too. Weakness!? Not a fan. I’d rather be bigger/faster/stronger/smarter in all things in life, but that’s not usually an option, is it?

What’s amazing though, is how frequently people tell us that they admire us for our strength.  And I’m always surprised when they do. How can people see us as strong when we are living in the crud of disappointing health?  We need others to help us with a variety of things (included but not limited to rides to/from sporting events for our 4 kids).  I’m disappointed in how strong we aren’t.  We feel weak and somewhat lost at times. So we have to lean into Him.  It’s only in Him that  we gain perspective, hope, and peace that dispels the disappointments.

What this looks like is simply to lean into his grace to get through a day.  Each day. One day at a time.  I really mean that.  In my head I repeat a phrase constantly which is a slight variation from 2 Cor 12:9: “His grace is sufficient to fulfill your needs, today.”  So I pray. I listen. I read scripture.  Sometimes I fail at this big time, but frequently….my heart is calm and peaceful even in the storm.  It allows me to laugh at myself when I screw up cooking breakfast, or spill bleach on the colored laundry.  He gives me perspective that is bigger than disappointment.

Don’t let disappointment define you.

Do let his grace and peace (and yes, even power in weakness) inform you how to think and how to live through your  disappointments.

10.8 MINISTRY IS LIKE Mountain Biking – The Thrill

Alejandro Paz – zona de piedras Casta  http://youtu.be/1q3LV2yyzJg

 

When ministry goes bad, it hurts.  A wise leader once told me, “If you are never dissapointed while building disciples, you probably aren’t trying very hard.”  If the rider in the video would have made a wrong turn, it would have really hurt.  Yet, if he would have just stuck to a paved bike trail, he wouldn’t have had an incredible ride like this!  It’s obvious to infer that he IS trying hard.

Every now and then you can stand back and look at what is going on and marvel at how God is blessing.  I stumbled upon this video today, and immediately was impressed at how the driver maneuvered at a high speed.  If it looks like he is on roller coaster, that’s because it’s the same (or better) rush to experience flying down the side of a mountain after a long climb.  That is similar to ministry.  When you are in it for awhile, now and then it’s good to look at how God is using you, and stand back and marvel.

When I first started mountain biking, there was no way I would have taken on a descent like what is shown in the video.  However, now I would gladly strap on my helmet and try riding that hill from the video!  I’m more experienced, thus I can do more with decreased risk for injury since I know better how to avoid it.  I must still be careful, but I’m able to do greater things.  Those greater rides are a thrill!

Ministry is the same.  After being faithful in being a kingdom builder for years,  I get to be more involved with great kingdom building things after being faithful and getting better at it.  Just last week I was invited to participate in a mission trip into a closed muslim nation where proselytizing is illegale.  I don’t know if God is going to make this happen for me or now, but I’m excited at the prospect of it.   Ministry is a thrill!

Not to us

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (Psalm 115:1 ESV)

We have churches and leaders in particular who are full of pride. They are positioning themselves to take credit, and receive praise in “leading” those they don’t even have influence over. It’s creating a stir in the unity of the body of Christ in our region of Northwest Arkansas. Its disgusts me, infuriates me, and makes me want to fight.

Instead, I’m praying. God, will you please break down the barriers? Will you please cause their eyes to see the damage they are doing. Will you please give words of wisdom to Garris and to Wade. Will you please cause them to have ordained confrontations, where those being corrected will have teachable hearts? Will you bring not only healing, but growth among the leaders? Father, we can only truly be united under your love and glory. Please move without discretion, and give your name glory for “the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”

My Reading Is Changing

If you would have asked me two years ago, I would have told you that the bulk of my reading happened on a computer.  Wow has that changed.  With the development of e-readers, and my personal enjoyment of technology, I currently barely touch my computer except for when I’m working.  
What happened?

  • Twitter Happened!  I follow people whom I think are interesting or at least intellectually stimulating.  If I follow you via my normal personal twitter account, the odds are high the I will at least check if not somewhat read through any links you post.  The back side of that is that I regularly stop following people with that account, if they aren’t producing something of interest (or aren’t a close personal friend).
  • iPhones Happened!  I am one of those people who wishes he didn’t buy the latest greatest technology, and often don’t.  However, as I don’t have a place to regularly write or work, I believe in being able to produce and communicate on the fly.  My iPhone is my primary modus operandus for engaging with twitter which leads to…
  • Read Later Happened!  Twitter articles that I link into sometimes are much larger than a quick 400 word speed read.  I’m busy and don’t have the chance to read it it all, but I can click a button and a software/app will automatically save it’s location for me for personal use later when I have time to do more reading on my…. 
  • iPads Happened!    I use Read Later, later, in my day or in the week.  It’s nice to snuggle up in bed later in the evening and instantly have interesting articles to read quick available at my fingertips.
  • YouVersion Bible Happened!  Best App Ever.  I love using it’s reading plans.  I even have my small group of 8th grade boys using the same app.  It’s a game changer for organization!

Of course there are other apps and technology things available as well.  But an amazing mix of hardware and software has helped caused me to read more than ever before.

What does it mean to be a leader?

Inspired by questions for writers for upcoming YWJ Issue:

 

Being a leader can be difficult to define.  One of my favorite examples of this is a theoretical situation:
A lady is with a group of people standing nearby her in an open field.  Due to dangerous reasons that only she is aware of, they all need to collectively move to a different physical location in a short period of time. She realizes she needs to lead others to safety.  Yet when she goes, they don’t come along with her.

Was she a leader?  She may have been right to want everyone else to join her, and they may have really needed to go where she went.  But they didn’t.  Technically, she was right and they were wrong. Yet, they didn’t follow.  She was forward thinking enough to realize a need that everyone else had. But was she a leader?

Her realization of danger that would impact the group was different from her ability to have actual influence.  Whatever the situation was that caused others to not move with her, the end result was that she didn’t have the ability to help them. Perhaps they were scared.  Perhaps she spoke too quietly and they couldn’t hear her.  Perhaps she jumped up and down and waved her arms, but those she was supposed to be leading were blind, so they couldn’t see what she wanted.  Perhaps she only attempted to communicate by speaking Mandarin, but those around her all spoke Russian.  Whatever the reason, she was not successful as a leader.  She lacked the ability to significantly influence change.

At the heart of leading is influence, which is the capacity or power to be a compelling force that produces effects on the actions, behavior, or even the opinions of others.  This can frequently happen through verbal and non-verbal communication.

I can think of a boy in my kindergarten class named Joshua, who was very good at leading, though the end result was frequently lost recess time for himself and our peers.  Was Joshua a leader?  Definitely.  Yet being a leader is not always a good thing.  Most people would agree that Adolf Hitler was an evil leader.  He was a master at influence.  Similarly, most people would agree that Winston Churchill was a wonderful leader.  He too, was a master at influence.

 

…out of time