Saturday, December 13, 2008

Yes, Master

Last night I was filled with great pride to see my lovely bride receive her Master's degree at the Winter commencement ceremony. It can't be understated how hard Nicole has worked these last 3.5 years. She's juggled full time work, multiple part time jobs, a full load of graduate courses, and a pregnancy--all while putting up with a dufus like me. Her hard work kept us fed, clothed, and sheltered while we pursued graduate education. After going through so much last winter, Nicole committed to press on with her studies and this fall finished her coursework to earn a Master of Non-Profit Administration degree. I'm continually impressed with her diligence and her grace under fire. She is an inspiration to me. Congratulations, Nicole. You've more than earned it.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Year is a Relative Thing

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your Presence?
If I ascend into heaven, you are there;
If I make my bed in the grave, you are there;
If I rise on the wings of the morning
or dwell on the farthest reaches of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me
and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me
and the night shall be light about me,
Even the darkness hides nothing from You,
but the night shines as the day;
the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
Psalm 139

Tonight marks an entire year since the night we held our daughter for the final time as she breathed her last. Easily, the darkest moment of our lives. Its something I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. There are times when people pass away, and though sad, it is a holy moment to honor a life well lived. Many other times, premature death shatters all we know to be good and holy. The night Evie died was a night of bitter loneliness. I did not know where God was.

Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their Spirits rise up to praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave?
Why do you hide your face from me?
You have taken from me...
Darkness is my only companion
Psalm 88

In the following days, weeks, and months our friends surrounded us with care. They prayed when we could not. I grasped for faith, and occasionally, caught hold of something. Or perhaps, more accurately, someone got a hold of me. My mind still frequently remembers holding her cold body and wondering where God went. Eventually, I learned where God was. Here...

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself
-2 Corinthians 5.19

Where was God? He was on the cross, befriending my daughter in his death. God the Father, grieving the grief that we know... that he knows. But that is not the final word.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered... Since children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. -Hebrews 2.10, 14-5

God knows. God cares. More than that, God saves. The love demonstrated in the death and resurrection of Christ means not only that Evie is not alone, but that she and I and all who belong to him will not stay dead. Death has been swallowed up in Victory! Where, O Death, is your Victory? Where, O Death, is your sting? -I Corinthians 15:55


Still, we miss her so much. The passage of time has healed a lot of wounds, but in some ways its painful to think about how long she's been gone. Grief is a curious thing. It ebbs and flows and shows up in unexpected ways. Today has been a mostly good day. We've spent it together just being with one another and also finding some holiday activities to lift our spirits a little bit.

Studies have shown that couples who lose a child might triple their odds of divorce. There might be a few different reasons for this. For one, the inevitable depression that accompanies the loss can put incredible strain on marriage. The adage might also be true that "hurt people, hurt people". While certainly the pain of losing Evie impacted our relationship, remarkably our love for each other has been an incredible source of strength for the battle. We know we need each other. We're blessed to have each other to carry one another. We're also blessed to have such a wonderful community of people who look out for us and have helped us along this last year: both our biological family, our many church families, and friends from all over. We'll never be able to thank you all enough.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Second Week of Advent

For a variety of reasons, I have been in a fairly significant spiritual "desert" place for the last few weeks. Life's circumstances, frustration, and guilt have taken their toll on my soul. As I felt my soul sinking lower and lower, this morning I was graced with the worship of the Church in Advent season. I have been gifted with some hope.

It was a morning where the hand of providence seemed to conspire circumstances that spoke significantly into my darkness. A time when many things come together from the music, the scripture, the sermon, and even the treasurer giving a stewardship report--all these things combined as the Spirit stirred something inside of me. It was something like this: though the checking account is precariously low, though the future is uncertain, and though my past is marked with pain--the dope is that there is still hope. You don't belong to this world and its vision of life, you belong to Jesus and his Kingdom- a place where money doesn't matter, where power doesn't influence, where status is out of style and all belong and are loved. We who are baptized into Christ have died to the old self and now live a new life. I need to live that new life.

The hours we spend on Sunday Morning in worship are a symbol and a sign that we believe the world is not as it should be. We bend ourselves to a breaking point to see the world beyond ours, to see the world through the eyes of Jesus. To look beyond the chaos and the sin and the tragedy and say, "there is meaning in this!" There is something out there beyond us! Trust, believe, and repent... and together we will wait for God.

So this morning was a time for me to hear the message of two prophets, Isaiah who says, "
Comfort, O comfort my people, says your God... He will feed his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead the mother sheep," and John the Baptist who cries out for the people to confess their sin, repent, and be baptized. I needed to hear both. To know that God still cares, but also to know that I need to be reborn each and everyday--to put on Christ and live a resurrected life and reject the culture of death that is obsessed with power, status, consumerism, hollow sexuality, and cold hard cash.

Some refreshed hope makes waiting more enjoyable. Happy Advent!