Sunday, July 12, 2015

Some Days Are London


I do not have the privilege of knowing every reader of this blog and so because I write today about marriage and it’s celebration please let me most humbly offer this disclaimer. If, my gracious reader, you arrive at these words today from any place of relational struggle or loss, you matter here. Jeff & I have sacred marital moments that would not read easy, victorious or in any way celebratory. We are marred humans honoring a God who has saved us. Many times. You will find no 'better than' here.
Also.
If you arrive as a brilliant, gorgeous, specifically chosen single then you matter here. And marriage is not, absolutely never, the ONLY way to experience awesomeness. It has been a part of my story, but it is not every story. Your life, beautifully designed, outrageously complete (RIGHT NOW!) is stunning to witness. Please enjoy my story, but this is not something for you to attain to. You have already arrived. You are exquisite as you are currently living.
Just as you are, friends, I am honored to share a portion of your very valuable time and travel alongside a bit. In this company, the company of broken, redeemed ones, nothing is required of you. I pray your current story can find place and encouragement among us.



 Several months ago, my amazing man bought me a ticket to London. Four glorious days with him, alone in our romantic musings accompanied by the stir of a magnificent city’s constant motion.

It was absolutely splendid.

Jeff’s primary aim for our royal excursion was to find my smile and he achieved this objective many different ways. New shoes, amazing food, delicate tea service in dainty cups, fashion museums. He endured all of that with such diligent grace speaking persistently into every next step, “What do YOU want to do? Because that is our very next good thing.”

Four whole days to the tune of Cheryl’s wants and wishes.



What a delightful privilege to be a bit high maintenance. To have my own way accompanied by concession and blessing. 



I didn’t know I needed that so much.

But I did.

And Jeff knew this. I’m so grateful for his persistence.

Because.

He had to talk me into it.

Over an embarrassing number of months, my generous man pitched trips to me in rapid succession with my very responsible ‘reasons why not’ volleying back at him in scripted and well-rehearsed cadence.

He countered that ‘the right time’ was elusive and we should just go. We needed it.

I needed it.

We snuck to nearby havens in the meantime. A night here. An afternoon there.

But Jeff did not relent. When it comes to me, he never does.

Especially when I’m hurting. He will scavenge out relief for me even if I miss the intent for all the practicalities his spontaneous plans require.

Love.

We all speak (and hear) it differently. And sometimes, in the midst of the noise of life, we can land completely tone deaf to the deliberate selection our nearest and dearest exercises for our good every day.

In the simple things, the regular things there can be a melodic accompaniment of care that settles indiscernible against the shiny intrigue of all the other stuff. Whatever the other stuff may be.

Especially when we stumble or hit a deficit in some way, that constant intoning of love can sound far too muted to recall or draw into awareness.

We may need help in the adjusting of all the volume settings in order to draw out that crucial commitment decibel that can become so usual we forget it’s beauty and it’s practice and it’s value.

Sometimes we need to get quiet and alone enough so that we can hear the constant undertones that are necessary for the whole symphony to swell.

Fidelity is costly and precious.

Fragile. Delicate. In need of constant nurture.

So very complex.

That complicated minuet of hearing and speaking, both necessary for the progression of motion. How every out of step stumble and (have mercy!) every gloriously treacherous sprawl accrues understanding and growth. Somehow.

We must keep stepping. Because once the vow has been spoken and God’s hand has silently knit two into one, despite all the irreconcilable we can so easily accumulate, it is a joining that will forever be ours.

Whether we land fractured or bonded together, both outcomes are acknowledged best by the honest acceptance that what has been joined was done despite us. And letting go or holding on will always carry a depth of agony and joy that is far, far beyond our reason and our understanding.

Beyond our ability.

In all the uniting, we are in need.

So graciously exquisite.





On the streets of a majestic city, we remembered and spoke and recalled and celebrated the things that have etched us together.

The moments that have made our history inseparable.

Investing in those days of alone, we remembered our highlights and gave praise for our salvation and vowed again in our attentiveness and response that we will continue to pursue the depths our hearts can love this one person.


This man.

I don’t think I ever really lived without him.

It certainly wasn’t as much fun.


Thank you for London, Jeff Cash.


And thank you for every enduring, choosing day that made London possible.

You make me less afraid.

And that, this, is a miracle beyond comprehension.

 A story I will always love to tell.




Saturday, June 20, 2015

Arrivals and Departures Part 1


Lists very often order and delineate my world. They are my saving grace when we prep for travel.  I have processed through over a dozen lists in the last weeks. This is far more than my normal every day, but right in keeping with what I can expect to emerge from the swirl of furlough preparation. Lists protect my sanity and help me rest. In short, lists make me a better person. I will depend on my records and inventories for all the months we travel.  Today’s blog will be no exception. Please enjoy this list of observations compiled for this blog a few weeks ago as we planned for furlough.

  1. Preparing for furlough with teens and preteens is physically a much less daunting enterprise than when they were little. They pack their own bags. They clean their own rooms. They help me with all the household prep tasks. This is simply remarkable. I well remember the days of packing for five and I will never cease to marvel at the gift my children’s independence is to me too.  So thankful!

I personally vetted and packed each item of the four bags you see here. And chose the clothes they are wearing.

I have absolutely no idea what is in the four bags you see here. Didn’t even think about it once until right this minute. (Upon further review, I discovered that one of the boys packed a football and all have swimsuits. Fingers crossed this will last us four whole months.)

  1. We barely keep the mold and mildew at bay when we are living in our Uganda home and cleaning it regularly (one of the gifts of living in a rainy tropical environment). So, when we are away for any length of time we stand to lose some of our belongings to mold. In the past we have lost mattresses, sheets, clothes, photos, books, movies and anything leather. In preparation for our furloughs we now pack our clothes, pictures and most precious possessions in plastic bins. This doesn’t always work, but it’s the best we can do. This makes it feel like we are moving instead of just going away for some weeks.
  1. Rats. They WILL invade and reside while we are away. I hate this. I fight this. But it will happen. They are already knocking at the door, sneaking into our pantry and chewing placidly on our bananas while we slumber. I plug holes (with steel wool), I leave D-con in all the places and I whisper inhospitably into the attic, “You really are not welcome here.” But they know and I know that they will storm into this space when we have shut and locked and secured. I wish there was a better way. (Some wise reader just whispered,  “Get a cat!”  But unfortunately we have several who are allergic.)
  2. The emotions of leaving, no matter what side of the pond we are currently on, are heavy and analytical. We find ourselves looking at old pictures and remembering lots of ‘back when’ and we speak sadness for what we will be missing in our days away. Rather than a momentary lapse of farewell endeavoring, this specific experience is our constant. It never gets easier, but it does feel very familiar.
  3. We do so much better in this process of departing when we take time to be thankful for things out loud. Especially each other. In the bustle and planning and all the remembering of what needs to be done we must say please and thank you often. When we don’t things unravel quickly.
  4. I am so thankful for our life. There are many deficits in third world living but the redemption in every loss proclaims long and loud. Our God is SO faithful. It is truly our honor to serve Him here.
  5. My people amaze me. The emotions of stepping across the ocean and strolling alongside the lives and happenings of others are big and deep and sometimes overwhelming. As the Cashlings have aged and matured we can shelter them from the emotions of being ‘other’ less and less. They experience the cross cultural re-entry as maturing people now and thus feel all the struggles and blessings in their own ways.  And yet, they go. Packing and planning and talking through what they feel and think. They courageously process and set out to engage in a culture that is very different from the one they operate in daily. It leaves me stunned. Not just that they can do this, but that they embrace the process so valiantly. Praying, helping each other and boldly stepping forward together, their strength and dignity inspire and teach me. Every time.
Soon it all begins. We will eventually count down to one. One more night in our own bed, one more evening walk with my sweet dogs, one more morning coffee ritual in my own kitchen with my favorite cup and then we begin our sojourn. Time with our family and dear friends lures us away from our regular and our well acquainted. We simply cannot wait to look into some precious eyes and feel some actual hugs from those whose sacrifice reaches all this way too. It is time for us to physically be in the same space again. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to make this happen.
As we venture into the vagabond life for some months we lean confidently into an embrace that stays familiar and never fails.
He is good.

“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea
 even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.”
Psalm 139:7-10

Friday, June 12, 2015

Stripes and Wings


“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.”
Psalm 36:5

I was juggling sippy cups and snack distribution while Jeff paced around the din that was toddler mid morning play.

He was talking about the Congo and the refugees that continued to find their way to peace and rest in Fort Portal. We had several Congolese families who were faithfully attending our town church and over the years, our earliest in Western Uganda, the invitations to teach and train Christians in the war impoverished regions just over the border grew louder and more persistent.

Jeff was eager to get there.

He made several trips over the years, all of them eventful and most of them dangerous. Rebel factions with roadblocks and an almost non-existent infrastructure made venturing even a mere 30 kilometers into the vast country of Congo a very risky endeavor.

Jeff knew there was a better way.

In most of the villages where we had connections, airstrips had been cut and maintained. In a country with horrific roads, air transport was key. MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) operated in and out of Nyakunde in Eastern Congo when political unrest did not have them relocated so Jeff began asking questions and checking prices for flights.

Most of the time air travel was cost prohibitive for us and so Jeff would drive several hours from our home to the Uganda border, try to locate a secure place to leave the vehicle and then boat across Lake Albert to the Congo border on the other side. The boat ride alone was nearly 3 hours and sometimes perilous. He was boarded one time by armed military men of nationality and allegiance unknown. Scary stuff. Once in the Congo he would endure long and impossible immigration and military negotiations that could take days. He would eventually teach any who could manage to gather and he showed the Jesus film on several occasions when all the negotiations went well.

His Congo trips could last anywhere from two days to over a week and we would be out of communication for most of that time.

Neither of us liked that aspect of the Congo experience and so we were constantly working to alleviate the risk and lack of communication when and how we could.

Mostly we couldn’t.

We prayed a lot around those trips and rested on the Holy Spirit’s leading and guidance most of all. Every time Jeff traveled West, he and I both had a peace about it-- a miracle we knew could come from one source alone.

Back when Jeff and I started dating I very easily surmised that settling with this particular man was going to land us confidently on the edge. His pioneering heart and embrace of any and all adventure endeared him to me and challenged me mercilessly too. But I bet in. With all I had as a matter of fact, and I was not disappointed. Adventure and new things abounded in our life and work just like I knew and expected they would.

Aviation was one of the many adventurous dreams Jeff always nurtured. He flew a few hours in college but due to time and cost restraints he had left that dream simmering while he finished other things. Flying planes was something he mentioned in passing stories here and there and honestly I glossed right over it accepting that flying had it’s draw but most likely wouldn’t be key in our life as we turned to focus on other more pressing demands.

I mistakenly believed that Africa and all it’s adventure would fill us up and not allow much time or energy for anything else.

Over days and weeks though, nearly 7 years into our Western Uganda ministry, the topic of Cessna planes and flight school emerged again to dominate every discussion. I busied myself with all the Mom stuff that engulfed my being at the time, but the din of aviation dreams had begun to accompany every conversation and every prayer.

I could hardly believe it. But it was happening.

Jeff’s dreams and our family’s calling were merging in a challenging and deeply meaningful way. Aviation was a needed tool in our ministry to take the love of Jesus to remote parts of Africa.



On that one particular day, with our two and half year old and our 18 month old giggling and playing around us, Jeff finally said it decisively.

“I’m going to do this, Cheryl. I’m going to get my pilot’s license. What do you think?”

He already knew the answer to that. We both did. I was ahead of him with this realizing by that look in his eyes and the passion with which he had researched every aspect of what lay ahead that this was going to happen before he officially said it. I, with much prayer, had made my peace about it. God knew where I stood (cautious, a tad fearful and somewhat entertained by the irony—long story, but praying for boys and their airplanes had been trained well into my life). I knew God would make me ready for whatever was ahead.

Off we go.

That was in 2001. Jeff began his study. King videos, online courses and flying with instructors any time we could save the fees. Slowly he began to accumulate hours and quickly he absorbed ground school training spending hours in work and study.

He was all in.

Our following furloughs in the States focused heavily on flight training. Most of the earliest training took place in Hillsboro, Oregon. We were generously housed at Jeff’s parents while he made the hours long commute to Hillsboro for flight school.

In May of 2002 Jeff received his private pilots license. We were thrilled. In very gracious provision contributions were made to purchase a plane and Jeff began to shop.

Used car salesmen have nothing on used airplane salesmen as it turned out. The purchase of our Cessna 206 was a long, arduous process requiring Jeff to travel to different countries to fly planes and make decisions. Finally, in the summer of 2003 Jeff made the purchase. A Cessna 206 was awaiting a ferry flight from Bangor, Maine. Jeff began to plan.

He and his previous flight instructor were going to ferry the plane together from Maine to Uganda. Jeff was ecstatic. His research and preparation took much energy and time. Flying over the North Atlantic in a Cessna was no walk in the park but Jeff was exuberant over the adventure and opportunity.

We had three kids by this time and I was simmering the fourth as the plans for the ferry flight took shape. Jeff wanted the plane secured in Uganda before the baby came and so he and John met up in Bangor, Maine in early October of 2003.

The grand adventure took off. The trip they planned could be done in two weeks time if weather cooperated.

It did not. The trip extended to five long weeks, during which time Jeff gained practical experience in real world instrument flying. Jeff’s experiences on the ferry flight set him on a course to gain his instrument rating. We anticipated this nearing achievement as we celebrated Jeff’s imminent arrival back to Fort Portal. He called me on a Saturday morning to let me know the day’s schedule. They planned to take off from Djibouti and land in Addis Ababa that day. And on the following Monday they would fly from Addis to Fort Portal.

Jeff would be home very soon.

This (then) pregnant Mama was more than ready for him to arrive.

I received a second phone call that Saturday morning. (Second phone calls with in minutes are not my favorite thing on flying days, FYI.) The Cessna had gone down just minutes after take off from Djibouti.

It seems that the engine-out landing in Djibouti was another beginning for us.

Jeff and John miraculously walked away from the episode unscathed which locked the whole ordeal into the ‘victory’ category (in my heart anyway.) That second phone call could have gone a whole other way.

In the decade that followed, Jeff persistently and faithfully led a Cessna 206 rebuild. The engine was lifted from the aircraft in Djibouti and shipped to a mission agency for restoration while the body of the plane made it’s eventful way to us in Uganda. Over very many years, and so much back (and heart) breaking struggle that Cessna found it’s way to being whole. There were very many setbacks that would leave me waiting for Jeff to ‘call it’ but he would always regroup and begin again. The dream to fly was a calling too and until we received new marching orders we would continue along the same path no matter how many times we had to restart. Jeff’s persistence was inspiring, costly (mostly for him personally) and beautiful. In very many ways. I learned so much through the entire endeavor.




Finally, in the summer of 2012 (nine years later!) the ferried plane flew from the Fort Portal airstrip in fist pumping victory.



We were in the air again. The plane became a working tool for the ministry and Jeff set out to secure the instrument rating he had long ago set aside because all funds were needed for the plane rebuild.



Our furlough of 2013 was again flight training focused. Jeff inched closer to the instrument rating and had the commercial license looming in his periphery.

All or nothing, as they say.

Set backs continued, but so did the resilience. Jeff continued to press into the challenge of an aviation ministry.

On August 23, 2014 I was the recipient of another rapid succession of calls. Jeff was flying with some church leaders to speak for a conference in Arua, Uganda. The first phone call informed me that he would take off at noon and land at 2pm in the Northern Ugandan town.

Thirty minutes later Jeff’s number rang me again. It took some interminable seconds before Jeff’s voice responded to me on that second call. I could only hear crowd noise for a bit and I continued to call out Jeff’s name over the phone trying unsuccessfully to calm my rapidly increasing heart rate. It was the most afraid I felt the whole day.

I finally (gratefully) heard him speak.

There had been a crash. Jeff was shook, but standing. I raced out the door.

The plane was in a field (garden) just past the runway. I was driving fast in that direction and praying out loud the entire way. Words tumbling from places I couldn’t quite discern.

“Don’t let this destroy him Father. Not like this. I have no idea what it is you have in mind for all of this---but Lord, we need you here. In every way. Help us please. Do not let Satan have this. Jeff must stand. He must fly. I’ll hold his arms up but I need to know this from you first. I don’t know how much a man can take, but Lord please don’t let him be destroyed. Help him fly again.”

Now.

Just to be clear. I am not the type of person who would pray such of my own volition. I was driving toward a plane crash. That happened when my husband was pilot in command. 

I am not usually the person ready to head straight back into a circumstance that brought pain or trial. I pull back from difficulty of my own natural self.

But.

These words poured from my depths as I sped over the (still very) bumpy roads. I was asking for God to help my husband fly again. And I meant it.

This desire could only have emerged from one Source.

That particular August day still defies description for me. Even though I will most likely try for words at some point.

Only, standing in that deluge of miraculous saving with our shattered hearts littering the freshly tilled ground around us flying became life or death in a whole new way.

The tide of Jeff’s prolonged life shored me in and I accepted the challenge to bet in again. My prayers have remained, by His Spirit, dedicated to Jeff’s continuing advancement as a pilot.

The months following the crash have been difficult ones for many reasons.

The crash landing was violent. Jeff would carry the images long.

But he knew. And I knew.

We would not quit defeated.

The next right thing, the most faithful step forward was up.

Earlier this year after many exacting days of work and training Jeff successfully completed his instrument rating check ride.

And yesterday, in a valiant push against ever emerging obstacles he successfully completed his commercial pilot check ride.

Check rides and their respective training that involve among other things flying blind and power-off landings are quite a challenge anyway but when you are in the wake of an intense power-off crash the steps forward can feel overwhelming.

Stepping into that challenge required faith muscle strength this aviation dream has exercised daily for the last 13 years.

What an eventful journey. And it’s not over. I have absolutely no idea what is before us still, but all that is required is our faithful commitment to the next right thing. The Creator of these skies knows the way we take and He will never fail.

We remain, safely held and led by our Savior and Friend, all in.


This man.


No words for how proud I am of him.

His courage has always been inherent, but this endeavor has tested and tried that courage to exhausting limits.

He is running his race. The crash cut in on him, but he got back up and presses on to finish well.

It is very humbling to succumb to testing.

It is an excruciating privilege to walk this trying way.

As Jeff’s closest witness I testify.

Absolutely nothing is impossible with God.

Decades ago, we set out to tell people this.

Instead, God whispered, “Show them.”












Friday, May 01, 2015

Stay so close...


“Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel,
‘My way is hidden from the Lord;
my cause is disregarded by my God’?
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
Isaiah 40:27-31


Feeling forgotten?

You are designed and purposed by One who never ends.
Today.
He understands.
Every single thing.
And He never wearies of all this.
Even when we do.

He gives and increases.

He renews.

Waiting expectantly on Him, we move forward.

We will soar!

Hear and know.

His promises are for keeps.

With tenacious hold, I take your hand and His.

Strengthened and sustained
To stand together and believe.

“If our heart’s desire is the will of God, we will wait for His timing even when the pause is long and uncomfortable…. Use every second of the wait to allow the Father to increase your faith and deepen your trust. Stay so close that when He finally says “now,” He’ll only have to whisper.”  Beth Moore from Whispers of Hope

Friday, April 17, 2015

Just One More



It was Christmas Day and all the activity was behind us. Presents opened, feast devoured, pictures taken and Skype calls complete.

We were putting away the last of the leftovers together when she said it.

“I had really been dreading Christmas this year, Mama.”

“Dreading?” I replied with surprise.

“Yes,” she paused considering if she even wanted to continue and put all the words out there between us. With a deep breath she revealed into the sanctity of our very usual motions what her heart was turning over and around and feeling loudly.

“I only have one more Christmas at home before college. Only one more furlough. Only one more year at home. Just one more year where everything will be the same.”

I quietly took in her words choosing to still my own reaction and simply hear her heart.

But I felt crumbling begin from the depths of my soul as she verbally contemplated all the changes edging into our world.

Just one more?

She spoke at length about college and her dreams and all the excited, happy expectations she allows to flourish too, but my mind was lost already.

Lost in every precious memory.

That first heartbeat. Then my malaria. Then that precious heartbeat again.

Her first laborious breath.

Her first smiles. Her first laugh. Her first step.

How she loves the Bible. How she loved every brother God brought to her.

How instantaneously she stole her Daddy’s heart.

How easily she has embraced others.

How her joy and beauty have filled our home.

Just one more?

How can this be?

How can I ever endure the most agonizing beauty of this specific flavor of release?

But here we are.

On this side of it all.

Tumbling through the sippy cups and sleepless nights and weary days and stomach flues  and teething. Through the messy floors and sticky tables and snotty cuddles. It felt never ending. 

But it was ending. It is ending.

If I keep saying it, will it start to feel real?

I cried a long time on Christmas night. It won’t be the last time, I am sure.

But we have entered that season of ‘Just One More’.

And at the end of it all, no matter how bad it hurts, I am stunned by the glorious honor of participating in even this. Treasuring every ‘just one more’ to the edges of it’s occurrence.

Because these exquisite creations are of me in a way no one else ever will be.

Pieces of me splaying outward from here in a gorgeous light spiraling splendor.

Merciful Father, you are Giving even this.

Holding on. Letting go. Eyes wide open. Heart beseeching.

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!




Thursday, April 02, 2015

Wounds

There is a shattering moment when a deception unveils.

Lies don’t appear all of a sudden and they never walk alone. They most always walk in community with resembling counterparts.

They need companionship to thrive. 

And when a thundering horde arrives greeting us in the native tongue of our enemy  (John 8:44), the resulting shards can stab from the inside out. 

“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
 Heb 4:13

A sense of invisibility can be wrapped inseparably with betrayal. 

An obscured and hidden injuring that can settle deeply indiscernible. 

A traumatic casting off that muses forgotten over time. 

Betrayal can be so surprising, searing deeply for a long season; leaving one staggered and stunned, reeling to disorientation. Harboring in a wounded curl, pleading with inward groans for help from somewhere. 

Last night, in the sanctity of trusting conversation with my closest friend I uncovered this wound. This still oozing soreness that I can barely stand to have seen or touched. 

This certain ache that I am so embarrassed to still have with me.

But there it is. 

Bleeding out. 

Why, in all my analysis and awareness and understanding and praying, does this wound still bleed?

(why am I still surprised?)

Betrayal and Grief are counterparts. Deeply gouged into one experience. 

And grief will not be stilled. It works through a soul establishing a permanent place. Forever changing a life. 

Grieving expressions can grow wearisome for witnesses and those who still need to say it all can find closed doors and blank stares where they seek listening eyes and sympathetic holds. 

Where we lose the most and hurt the deepest we can feel the most alone. 

But, Jesus.

“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are---yet was without sin.” 
Hebrews 4:14-15

We have a great High Priest. 

The One, who is like us. 

Tempted. 

(yet without sin)

Easter approaches and His story recalls and repeats in many venues. 

Mark 14 tells a part of it this way: 

“Peter declared, ‘Even if all fall away, I will not.’

‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘today---yes, tonight---before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.’

But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.’ 
And all the others said the same.

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples,
 ‘Sit here while I pray.’ 
He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  
‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,’ he said to them, ‘Stay here and keep watch.’  
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him…. 
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping….
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 
When he came back, he again found them sleeping because their eyes were heavy. Returning a third time he said to them,
 ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come… Here comes my betrayer!’

Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared.
With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.’
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him.
The men seized Jesus and arrested him….
Then everyone deserted him and fled.”


This Holy Week, the lonely garden moments profoundly echo and sustain. 

In the most intense crisis we have recorded of Jesus life, in a moment of crushing betrayal, Jesus finds the people He has invested in the deepest asleep, bored, afraid and abandoning. 

They had just celebrated together. Loved. Discussed all the expected victory. 

Declared their undying devotion and loyalty.

And within hours, everything changes. 

Wrapped in the heaviest darkness, all the false and all the jealous and all the self righteous indignation justified and marched. 

The holiest leaders, dedicated to zealous religious piety, reign down indictment with blind eyes and heavy hands through the kiss of one friend who really wasn’t and the crowd he gathered around himself.  

Distance generates from the humiliation of judgment. 

In his sorrowing pain, struggle He felt every implication of, Jesus friends could not see the way through. Even though they loved him. 

Such agony. 

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him…” 
Hebrews 5:7-9

Jesus knows even this.  His cries were heard but he had to learn obedience through suffering. 

“…. It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.”
Hebrews 2:9-10

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death---that is, the devil---
For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 
Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Hebrews 2:14-18

He sympathizes in every weakness. 

In every place where I want the pain to stop.

He knows.

All is laid bare. 

Nursing my own bleeding wound, I begin to recognize again, that the outpouring is His. 

“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.”
 Hebrews 9:22

It’s His blood that seeps through my own gash.

When my own blood pours it depletes. My own blood pouring must be stopped with pressure. It makes me weak. 

His blood is salient, pervasive, regenerative. 

Undefeated. 

It’s Sunday blood. 

A blood that fills up again despite all the pouring out. 

A blood that restores. 

From every garden abandonment and collapsing submission, we can strain for that looming third day. 

We can cling ahead to Sunday. 

We get to know.


With the wounds.

 Beyond the wounds.  

Because of the wounds.

He is Lord.


 “…Though the doors were locked Jesus came and stood among them and said, 
“Peace be with you!’
Then he said to Thomas, 
‘Put your finger here; 
see my hands. 
Reach out your hand and put it into my side. 
Stop doubting and believe.’ 
Thomas said to him, “my Lord and my God!” 
John 20:26-28

Invisibility denied. 

“Everything is uncovered and laid bare…”

Every wound accounted for.

We are His because He became like us. 

In every single broken, abandoned, defeated way. 

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
 2 Corinthians 5:21

This story will never dim. 

The longer we hurt in this world the longer we need to remember. 

He is coming back. 

All will be made right. 

“In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am…” 
John 14:2-3

Face to face with Jesus, the resemblance resounds.

His wounds still look exactly like mine.


“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”
Isaiah 53:4-6

“When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” 
1 Peter 2: 23-24

 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
Hebrews 4:16

With all our hearts,
Thank you, Jesus.
You win!



Friday, February 06, 2015

Rain


Oppressive heat remained into our evening hours, Tuesday, in an uncharacteristic fashion. We came very close to 90 degrees inside our house. We ran a generator for a few hours in the evening which allowed for some oscillating fans and ice cold smoothies. But it hurt to turn off that generator in the night and settle into beds with no breeze circulating around us. After a long drive from Kampala, sleep overtook us despite the heat but we would be awakened again in the early morning dark.

Thunder and wind.
A gigantic, lovely spattering.
For over an hour.

Awakened weary.
Stilled and aware.

A very sweetest relief.

Rain.


“He covers the sky with clouds;
he supplies the earth with rain

    and makes grass grow on the hills.”
Psalm 147:8(NIV)


He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
Psalm 135:7(NIV)


I lay listening to the answer to my every prayer.

This moment felt like a most definitive reply.

 Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
 Passing through the Valley of Weeping (Baca), they make it a place of springs; the early rain also fills [the pools] with blessings.
 They go from strength to strength [increasing in victorious power]; each of them appears before God in Zion.
Psalm 84:5-7(AMP)



It’s strength to strength when we edge towards God.

Even through the Valley of Baca.

A deserted space of weeping and grief. (strength)

Even that dry place of suffering becomes a water-filled oasis.

With blessings pooling abundant.

As a result of the early rain.

All the ways of our hearts:

Weeping
Celebrating
Loving
Wandering
Losing
Gaining
Breaking

All the ways.

Are roads--High Ways--headed straight to Zion.

The presence of God. (strength)

Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are those who dwell in Your house and Your presence;
they will be singing Your praises all the day long.
Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!
Psalm 84:4 (AMP)

Rain or shine.

Oppressive heat or soothing breezes.

Restful answers or a steady barrage of wondering questions.

 O Lord of hosts, blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) is the man who trusts in You [leaning and believing on You, committing all and confidently looking to You, and that without fear or misgiving]!
Psalm 84:12(AMP)

“…the Lord delights in those who fear him,

    who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Psalm 147:11(NIV)

Hope even when the heat rises.

A faithful God bringing all matter of ‘rain’ to console and remind.

He’s got this.

You. Us.

All our heart-ways.
He is Good.

 “The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest.”
Psalm 85:12

“When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.”
Psalm 104:28

“He does not withhold the good
 from those who live with integrity.”
Psalm 84:11b (HCSB)

Selah.