burning warm for the hours

burning warm

At church there were moments that the sun peeked through the stained glass window, beautiful on a gray weekend. Last weekend we were at eighty and beside Lake Michigan, this weekend the temperature was forty. The weather moves like that here. The sun shone so brightly through the top amber panes, I almost needed to shield my eyes.

In a pew Bible I found a slip of paper. Psalm 23 was written in neatly in childlike form.

thermynaThe Lord is my Shepard, I shall lack nothing. he makes me lie down in Green pastures, he lead me beside quiet waters he restores my soul. he guides me in paths. no lo thermyna. ūüė¶

not thermyna.

 

Sometimes, I don’t feel as though I deserve those words either.

Like when I hesitated to turn left on a blinking yellow and the SUV behind me laid on the horn. In horror, I watched my right middle finger fly off my hand squarely to the rearview mirror. And afterwards… I realize yes, I really did that with my kids in the backseat.

Or the tantrum on Sunday afternoon about the burnt rice that resulted in an apology to all three of the other people in my family.

 

Only I do deserve Him.

So does Thermyna.

 

God’s brilliance is like the sun shining through that amber glass. It burns warm, simply because he loves us. He knows we are never going to be so bright on our own.

I am in the hallway at my job. A friend stops even though she is pushing a baby stroller, and she puts her hand on my shoulder. ‘I’m praying for you today.’ I want to say, oh, everything is fine. In reality, that day it is not. She knew somehow. Her voice was the warm love I needed for the hours.

I need.

Thermyna needs.

We all need that burning warm. Love. Forgiveness. We are messy, messy people.

 

This week I will think of the amber colored stained glass,

burning warm in sunlight,

covering.

 

and also I will pray to remember to be that burning warm to others.

like Thermyna, a child… longing for the comfort of Psalm 23.

There a million and a hundred thousand trillion of her in this world, in need for the hours.

 

When have you felt that burning warm of God’s love? Who can you offer hope for the hours?¬†

even in the why.

whyAt the end of a long day, I did not want to be there. Actually, all semester I did not want to be there, anywhere but there.

 

I packed my basket and showed up, weary.

At the last minute, I changed Bible stories… to how much God loves children in the Jesus Storybook Bible.¬†I read the words surrounded by twelve children eating candy hearts out of cardboard boxes. Summoning all I had, I emphasized the words, hoping they might imprint in a remaining way. The boy across from me kept challenging why.

 

Why? Why does Jesus love children?

Because you just have a special place in his heart. He created you and thinks you are amazing. He did not look convinced.

 

Around a table they created hearts for people they loved. Markers, scissors, and enormous amounts of glitter glue poured onto everything. In the midst of their creations, he lay face down on the middle of the floor.

Then I am sitting there beside him on the old carpet of a dark church basement floor, glitter and laughter revolving around us. There he cried into his hands, tears dripped through his fingers. He missed a family member, not gone, gone, but gone from him five years counting. One who should not be so far, a Momma. I put my hand on his shoulder and let him cry and it seemed so little.

 

He is a scrappy nine, and already he holds a heartbreaking why. That knowledge that he meant everything, something more than he once knew to God… was enough to create a fissure in all that hard exterior. Oh, how he loves, even in the why, and somehow this seems sacred.

Just like that, I knew there wasn’t anywhere I wanted to be but there.

 

his understanding

IsaiahThe month of January, I am joining a group of writers talking about risking rejection. Thank you to Amy Sullivan for encouraging us to move out of our comfort zones. You can read her risk and all the links to others here.

Last week, I sought to take a risk and say no (not an easy feat for me). I can’t say I was totally successful. I said no to one thing, while finding myself in another spot, as a substitute. I tried, does that count?

The next two weeks I will talk about risks that are intertwined with writing. Let’s be honest, I am a worrier and a doubter.¬†Every day I hit publish on here or somewhere else I feel so vulnerable, I can barely breath. Also, I very much love writing.

There has been a lot of risk involved and an unbelievable amount of rejection.

 

My risk this week is trying again.

Last winter, Kids Can Press, Citizen Kids donated an entire set of books to About Proximity. They were unbelievably generous and believed in our message.

citizen kidI worked to put together a series of play groups involving the books. They were super fun; games, interactive activities, a big dose of families making a difference. I gathered up my proposal and met with someone at the public library. They have a wonderful auditorium space. I thought it might be a worthwhile addition to their summer offerings.

A week later I received a no. Saying no is hard for me. Receiving no is hard. I tend to think the worst of myself and my ideas. (This did not fit their themes.)

I packed up the books and slid them in their box under my desk. The great moral of how I did not give up never happened, because I did just that. I felt very sad and did not keep trying.

My risk rejection this week is to gather those books and the plans up again. I will commit them to God. If I don’t find a home for them, we will line my street and fill up my house. I can’t wait to write about them this summer.

 

His understanding when we are rejected is so great.

His ability to not grow weary of us and our hearts is so great. They are everything to him.

love to all of you

love

Sometimes people write about all the things they have accomplished.

 

Number of Christmas treats made: 0

Christmas shopping: Not Done

Number of times I forgot to hide the elf on the shelf: 8

How much of our Christmas tree is lit up: 1/4 the rest of the lights will not shine

My good intention to do an act of kindness each day in December: not doing so good

Christmas Cards: 0

Christmas devotions read at the dinner table: 1

Also: Christmas lice nits and one hundred loads of laundry

 

I love the Herdmans from the Best Christmas Pageant Ever. 

Imogene Herdman was crying.

In the candlelight her face was all shiny with tears and she didn’t even bother to wipe them away. She just sat there-awful old Imogene- in her crookedy veil, crying and crying and crying.

 

At my job, the librarian is reading this book to the second grade class.

One of the students raised his hand, “Are the Herdmans real?”

Yes. The Herdmans are real. They are more real than most of us choose to reveal.

 

Those Herdmans are real.

Hey! Unto you a child is born

Jesus was born for the Herdmans. He was born for us.

 

I am feeling a little like Imogene in the crookedy veil.

I will be taking a little break until the New Year.

Love to all of you.

I am looking forward to regrouping to so we can draw up in proximity to all the Herdmans we know and are yet to know.

 

Drop me a note aboutproximity@gmail.com

I really love hearing from you all. Your voices mean so much.

but I do love.

photo (2)My Mom took this photograph of my daughter Ellie on a class field trip. Each student was lying at the base of a tree, staring up into its branches.

When I was a girl, I remember lying on the grass of our backyard, behind our red brick house. Our golden retriever Tessa, was probably close by. I would lay there and stare at the clouds moving by. I would pick daisies and feed them to Tessa out of my open palm.

 

I don’t pause often enough to dream anymore. Life moves forward so quickly, I forget.

Yesterday afternoon, the wind howled and rain fell in sheets. I laid on my bed watching, drifting off to sleep. In that moment I was thankful.¬†I thought of all the years I spent doubting myself and worrying about making everyone happy, I felt terribly thankful for the fading. All that living small faded with one thing…

 

If I do not love. I am nothing.

But I do love. That is everything. Enough.

The best gift I could receive, I am enough for God.

When we are still and dream, we are assured.

love

What keeps you from pausing? Dreaming? What did God bring forth in you the last time you paused to listen. 

Unfinished

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Richard Stearns, President of World Vision has a new book called Unfinished Believing is only the Beginning. 

About Proximity was given a hard cover copy to review and giveaway!

Stearns first book was the National Bestseller The Hole in our Gospel. In that book he spoke about his journey from CEO of Parker Brothers Games and Lenox, Inc to World Vision.

 

In¬†Unfinished,¬†Stearns writes about our Biblical mission to proclaim God’s truths and act on his life-changing love.

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The book lacked the deep story telling Stearns included in his first book. He spent much of the chapters giving overview to the bigger story found in the Bible. I still enjoyed the book and its message very much. The stories he tells of his work with World Vision and other people’s acts of love are the strongest parts of the book.

One story stands out against the backdrop of the book for me. He told of how tourists vacationing at Haiti ocean resort locations are placed on buses with blacked out windows when they arrive at the airport. Then, they are transported to their destination. The windows are blacked out so they do not see the abject poverty they are passing by on the way to their resort.

 

The work is unfinished.

How often when we are not in direct proximity to suffering, do we black out what we see.

We were made for so much more.

made

You have a critical role to play.

We need to cast off our inward, secure, isolated lives and look outward.

The book has a great study guide and an act,pray, influence and give guide.

 

Leave a comment and be entered to win a hard cover copy of the book! 

Are you ever tempted to black out what you know? What do you think when you read the words we were made for so much more?

He Holds Us With the Greatest Love

deep

Rick Warren, is the author of Purpose Driven Life, and pastor of Saddleback Community Church in CA. This weekend his son took his own life.

I was so touched by his honestly in his letter to his staff, that was made public. He shared how his son has struggled since birth with mental illness, dark holes of depression and suicidal thoughts that did not subside with the best doctors, medications, counselors and prayers for healing.

Mental illness is real and dark. Mental illness does not mean you don’t love and trust God in your life. It is a disease, an illness, an imbalance.

I have struggled with this in my life. You can read my story in the about section of my writing. I struggled to accept the help of medication, thinking perhaps, I was not relying on God enough. Nothing could be further from the truth. My mind could not even touch the compassion of Christ for me when I was in an anxious state of being. Just as I finished writing this, I read a post about mental health by Ann Voskamp. She is the most eloquent writer I have ever read and speaks about this beautifully.

 

What I am troubled by is at the end of every article about Pastor Warren’s son is a string of comments. We know these follow every article written, but these make my heart hurt.

The comments revolve around three issues mental health, guns and homosexuality.

Across all the news articles comments, people seem to believe Warren’s son committed suicide from the despair of being homosexual with a pastor for a father. This has no factual basis. That is many people’s perception though, that if you belong in a Christian family and are homosexual it would drive you to suicide.

God gave us free will. He doesn’t have a list of what is a freedom or not. He gave us guidelines in his Word that he longs for us to follow, but we have the free will to make the choices that define our life.

He allows us to choose while holding us with the greatest love. 

Lamentations

The Jesus I know loved on the most vulnerable of society. I do not see Jesus closing the door of the church on anyone.

I don’t want to live in a world that assumes if you belong to a Christian family and are homosexual you would be driven to suicide.

I want to focus on Christ and his message, to love the most vulnerable. I want to be a servant, bending in the love that covers over all sins. There is so much we can do in this world to model the love of Christ.

There are so many broken people. We are all broken people. I am a broken person. I have hope because of Christ. I do not think anyone is beyond that hope and life altering redemption.

Kneel

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Your light will break forth like the dawn,

your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness will go before you, 

and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. 

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

Isaiah 58:8-9 

 

I am thankful that God says HERE AM I.

I am thankful that I can kneel.

 

Hey God, I feel utterly helpless right now. There are so many things out of my control. They leave me reeling.

All I can do is get on my knees. I want to wear them out. I called to you and I can be assured that you heard me. 

 

You will be my rear guard. If I stumble, if I fall backwards, if I am reeling you are right behind me to catch my fall. You will ease me back to standing. You will make my footsteps firm.

The very second I call to you.

 

Here am I. Here am I. Right here: in front of you, behind you and all around you.

You NEVER leave my proximity ~

kneel

Unexpected Love

images (3)

 

Unexpected Love: God’s Heart Revealed in Jesus’ Conversations with Women¬†

 

You can read more of Julie Zine Coleman’s work at her website Encounter an Unexpected God.¬†¬†She has been an educator for 20 years and a prolific Bible teacher.

You can also check out her Unexpected Love landing space and get chapter guides and lesson plans for group study.

 

I would sum this book up with this statement:

Jesus loves us unconditionally.

 

Each of the nine chapters covers a conversation Jesus had specifically with women in the Bible. Women mattered to Jesus. We still matter.

 

As a Biblical teacher, you learn when you read her words and you are unexpectedly encouraged.

I love the applications for today’s woman, discussion questions and the journal prompts at the end of each chapter.

 

Jesus commended the faith of those who admitted their unworthiness, their brokenness, their need.

He did not let judgement cloud his interactions with others. He reached out his hand to all. These women came from all walks of life.

Jesus was interested and intentional about each encounter.

 

In my faith, at times I have struggled to believe I could be significant to God… He¬†is interested.¬†His concern does not depend on how spiritual I might be or how important I might seem in his eyes. It is not dependent on my performance or even my good intentions. I matter to him not because of who I am or what I do. I matter because of who he is.¬†

Jesus is personal. He cares about you. You. Me. Sometimes I need to remember that better.

Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of the book!

changes everything

Scandalous. Messy. Love.

When my daughter Ellie was 3 1/2, we were decorating for Christmas time. Somehow our Playmobil nativity scene got mixed up with our Little People house.  Ellie was very busy for a long time. Later that night, I went to put the Playmobil set back by our Christmas tree.

I found quite a scene in the Little People house. Mary was lying in bed with a wise man and one of the shepherds was lying with his head in the toilet.

 

I sat their staring for a moment, shocked.

Scandalous. Messy.

 

God knew went he sent Jesus in the form of a baby.

He knew how broken we would be.

He still sent his only son to redeem our lives.

 

That is a love like no other.

That is a grace like no other.

 

Give thanks to the one who loves.

Extend that kind of grace and love to the broken.