Lessons learned from Dad

Before school, on cold mornings, my dad and I would sit on the kitchen floor, next to the vent, and eat peanut butter and jelly toast. Mom had to be at work early, so dad got us ready for school. He loved sitting near the floor vent to stay warm. I don’t remember what we would talk about, I just know this was our thing and I loved it. Dad and I had a few things that were special to me. Most Sunday afternoons he would put blankets on the family room floor with pillows and ask me to take a nap with him. He also loved having his back scratched and his feet rubbed. These are sweet memories of my childhood that I’ll hold close. As I grew up, we grew apart, I guess like most teenagers do with their parents. I moved away to college then got married. However, things changed when he got sick. We have always had a special relationship, but I believe we grew closer in his final days.

At the end, we sat in hospital rooms a lot. We didn’t have peanut butter and jelly toast, mostly jello and bland hospital food. We didn’t eat together in the end, but I was able to feed him. We didn’t get to nap on the family room floor but I was able to rest with him and watch him sleep in his hospital bed. I was still able to rub his back and his feet, only his limbs looked older and tired. I’ll never forget one moment with him at the hospital. We were alone before he went into a procedure for his failing liver. We prayed, we hugged and I rubbed his feet. A precious moment with one of my heroes.

Dad is one of my heroes because of how he handled what he had been given. I don’t know who gave it to him, God, the fall of man, or just life. I can’t answer that, but he handled it so well. He endured suffering beautifully to me. What I saw when we were together inspired me. He endured more suffering than any other human I know. Those details are too hard to share or even remember. But through it all, I saw him glorify God. Every time he was in the hospital, he would make friends and share Christ. I told him to stop or God would just keep him sick to spread the gospel. He had a ministry of suffering, at least, that’s what I began to call it. His legacy was made known at his funeral, when doctors and nurses were present. Friends had flown in and the chapel couldn’t hold all the guests.

I have recently processed some of my grief over his great struggle and sickness. Wondering why his pain had to be so excruciating and what I thought was a shameful end. A friend asked me, “What did you see in his soul during all the pain?” Well, I couldn’t answer right away because I had missed his soul, because I only saw his physical pain. After thinking on this, I know that I saw his soul transform and grow closer to God. Our relationship became more tender, he became more sensitive, his faith seemed deeper. These days, I am choosing to focus on the beauty of his soul, instead of the sadness of his decaying body.

I am realizing this is a valuable lesson, to focus on souls instead of bodies. How hard is this, when someone walks into the room, to look past their body and see into their soul? God is so good at this. It takes eyes like God to do this, to have soul eyes. Ephesians 1:8 encourages me, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know.”

Somehow our world has this backwards. Our bodies have become idols, while our souls are starving. Starving for God, for His spirit, for rest. It’s really a tragedy to only feed our body and not our soul.

I’ve been focused on bodies too long, ignoring the health of my soul and missing the souls around me. That was the problem with dad, I was so focused on his body and the pain he was in, so I missed the transformation happening in his soul. It seems there is a lot in the Bible about pursuing soul health before body health. Our bodies are guaranteed to decay and fail us, but God guarantees the health and healing of our souls. Psalms discusses souls quite a bit:

Psalm 103:1 Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul.

Psalm 63: 1 O God, you are my God, my soul thirsts for you.

Psalm 62:1 For God alone, my soul waits in silence, from him comes my salvation

Psalm 42:11 Why are you casts down, O my soul, Hope in God.

David, who wrote many of the Psalms, seems to be onto something here. David was a tortured soul. He endured much hardship: he was an outcast, he was alone, he was a shepherd, he was a king, he was a murderer, he had an affair, he was anxious and depressed, but most importantly he was a lover of God. He was madly in love with his God. I believe that is why he writes so much about the soul. He knew only God could meet his needs and restore his soul.

Paul understood this too. He was beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, and alone. In prison for preaching the gospel, he asked for prayers to preach more boldly. His body only served as a house for him to glorify God through. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:16 “Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

That’s it, that’s the secret that Paul and David and maybe my dad knew. They had come to a place of seeing their failing bodies as just a house for God’s glory, not an idol to be worshipped or adorned. I am so guilty of this, I’ve been confused, tricked even. Instead of seeing the treasure inside, housed by a jar of clay, I have chosen to preserve and adorn and elevate my body above the eternal gift I have. That’s the lie I have chosen, the apple I’ve bitten into, to choose the value of my body over the value of my soul. And I have done it with others too, placing their outsides in higher esteem than their insides, the insides that house the potential for glory. That’s a sad and screwed up trade, the flesh over the Spirit. God have mercy.

How did this happen? The enemy is very cunning and has provided all the resources in the world to distract us. Let’s refocus and see what God has to say:

1 Corinthians 15:22, 53 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. For our dying bodies must be transformed into something that will never die.”

1 Timothy 4:8 “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Ask God to give you soul eyes, to see past the physical and into the eternal. Is your soul starving, weary or tired?

Psalm 116:7 Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

Thoughts on Friday Night

Watching that sweet girl dance her heart out to worship music, her red hair and striped socks, just twirling, twirling. There was a spirit about her dance, like the Spirit had invaded her space, her body, movements that pleased God and all who watched. This little girl who prayed for us, thanked God for us and for cheese and shoes and her mom’s health. We sat in awe. She asked her mom to join the praise dance, but mom refused, maybe too aware of others eyes. Aren’t we all too aware of others eyes? Aren’t we all just girls that want to twirl and wish we weren’t so self aware? We sat in this circle in this restoration house. All feeling more restored once we left.

Some of us from the rich side of the tracks, some of us from the wrong side of the tracks, some of us with scars on our arms from the tracks of the poison, some of us with scars on our hearts from the tracks others had left. We sat, all different, with different clothes, some fancy, some borrowed, we sat, all different, with different stories, some quiet and sad, some death defying, but yet all the same. All women who knew brokenness and joy, who knew the Savior, who knew something holy was happening in our midst.

We told our stories, our times when we knew Jesus best. We listened to others stories, some who met him in a jail cell, some who met him at vacation bible school, some who met him strung out, overdosed in the back seat of a car, some in the dark night of depression, the dark night of the soul. But the same Jesus was reaching down into these different spaces loving no one any more or less, redeeming the rich and redeeming the poor, redeeming all of us from the poverty of our souls.

We are all on the wrong side of the tracks, even if we have designer clothes and gas to put in our car, even if our kids live in other places, even if we drink too much, yell too much, spend to much, even if we are covered in tattoos and our teeth have fallen out due to the meth we ate, we are all on the wrong side of the tracks if we haven’t met and fallen in love with the Savior, the Rescuer, our Jesus.

And He speaks to all these different hearts and sees us all as daughters, worthy of a crown, worthy of his death and his blood. These women, these broken bodies that hosted us, they spoke of Jesus like a friend, they know him in a way many will not because of the darkness they entertained and they darkness they danced with. The light that was stolen from them due to empty bank accounts and cruel men and forgetful parents. I’ve had light stolen from me too, yet my bank account is full and I’ve been loved by a gracious man and had loving parents.

How is it that we can all be lost no matter what side of the tracks we come from? How is it that a room of such different women can talk and cry and love and pray so hard in only a few hours of meeting each other?

Only by the power of the Holy Spirit. Only a God so good can move in a room and bring unity and laughter and grace when the food is bland and the heart is weary. Don’t you want to serve a God like that? A God that can remove boundaries and prejudice and assumption and judgement and bring love and peace and break chains and heal hearts.

He’s waiting on you, he’s drawing you in. No one loves like him, no one will scoop you up and hold your heart and heal your wounds and place you in a circle with women that are nothing like you yet, you are all the same because of the death of his son.

Because of the blood that was shed we become one, one body, one spirit, one heartbeat for the world. Why would you not join this bandwagon and say yes to the unity of the broken and beat up? Have you been broken or beat up? Are you from the wrong or right side of the tracks? Either way, you need him, you need a redeemer, a restorer, you need a reckoning, and a replacement for your tired and weary heart. You need a God that you can twirl for, be completely unaware for, isn’t it about time?

The Good and the Bad

It’s good when eyebrows grow back due to a skin care experiment that removed too much facial hair. (It happened to a friend.)

It’s good when your best friend forgives you when she shouldn’t and you don’t expect her to. And then she just loves you like always because that’s all she knows to do.

It’s good when those lilies you divided (like you thought you were a gardener) come back and surprise you come spring time. I guess those garden prayers work.

It’s good when your kid remembers your prayers over him for courage and recites the verse you have begged God for countless times during the night.

It’s bad when you spend your monthly cash on wrinkle cream and lip gloss and there’s not enough money for haircuts or broccoli. Who needs haircuts or broccoli anyway.

It’s bad when you lose the earring your dad gave you for Christmas and then he dies and you just want something special to remember him by.

It’s bad when you lose yourself and your confidence and think you have to be someone you are not and you are 40 but it feels like high school again.

It’s bad when your kid finds out his best friend has parents who are divorcing and there’s a move coming.

It’s bad when you miss the eyes of your loving spouse because your eyes are focused on other things. And you wish you were different or better, instead of loving just you and that makes you think he should be different or better. Even though he loves just you.

It’s good there is a God out there that is patient and kind and sent a book of wisdom to guide us. It’s bad when we ignore it and try to figure things out from social media, our neighbors and Real simple magazine.

It’s good when you have the resources to love and serve the former addict and prostitute at the local ministry on Friday nights. It’s bad when you completely forget there is a need because you are online shopping for a new outfit for the party next week.

It’s bad when you sink into an emotional hole of lies telling yourself you could do better, be more, work harder, eat less, tighten up, weigh down, smile brighter, stand straighter. But the hole is so deep it takes two days to climb out.

It’s bad when the man you think is going to save the world dies and is buried and the next day nothing happens.

It’s good when he rises on the third day and appears to you and you choose to believe, even though it may cost you your life.

It’s good he sent us a Holy Spirit that whispers, “child, your value is tied only to me, not your status, your behavior, your appearance, or your performance.”

Thank God for the good. Thank God for the new morning, a chance to start again, redemption. Thank God there was a resurrection and there will be a reckoning and a restoring.

Thank God he makes all things new, even those crazy, unthinkable, unspoken places that we are afraid to say out loud because what if they knew places. Those places we can only entrust to him, those are the places that feel the worst that seem so bad but he is a good good father and those are the places he loves to step into best and show off.

Show off in me Jesus, in the baddest parts.  Would you just be so good?