Choose Life

It has been a few weeks since I last blogged.  The reason: I had nothing to say.  It was as if, not only was I silent in terms of writing, but God also seemed silent.  A friend texted and said, “Give yourself a moment for the Spirit to direct and the words will flow.”  The inspiration flowed from two different sources.

I finished watching a movie on the Lifetime channel called Tiger Eyes about a young girl who had to deal with the sudden death of her father.  At a certain point toward the end of the movie she wrote one word on a piece of paper: alive.  Then the word from Deuteronomy 30:19 came to my mind:  “Choose life so that you and your descendants may live.”  Choose life!

When life is flowing on all cylinders it is easy to choose life.  In fact, I do not think we intentionally choose life at that point, but rather life simply happens and we flow with it.  When all is going well we are not intentional in our choice of life.  It seems as if there is no choice, but rather life simply happens, happens for our benefit and our consolation.

But when darkness sets in, when the sun is blotted out with sadness, with grief, with loneliness, with troubles of many shades of gray then we are forced to choose.  Then to choose life is an act of faith, a step of faith in the face of everything that opposes life, that saps life.  When all seems bleak, it is not easy to choose life.  The easier way is to remain in the darkness, to refuse to turn toward the light, to Life.

In the months following my wife Diane’s death I remember saying to myself, “I choose life,” but at that point I think I was simply trying to run from grief.  It did not work, grief is to be experienced, not avoided.  Now I think choosing life is a daily affair, with the words and the reality added to that volitional choice, “By the help of God, I choose life.”

Back yard reflections

backyardOne can learn a lot by sitting in one’s backyard and watching animals, in this case my dog Hanna and Andrew’s cat Amie who still resides with me. Amie thinks she is a great African hunter, even though in six years I have never seen her catch anything.  But in the backyard she will silently, stealthily, patiently approach an unsuspecting mouse, perhaps a fantom mouse.  Hanna will see her enter her African hunting mode and joyfully pounce toward the possible prey, totally destroying any semblance of “the hunter approach.”  There is a lesson in all that ridiculousness, at least for me.

Patience has never been my strong suit.  I am more of Hanna than Amie, and yet the Scriptures are full of admonitions for patience.  In the parable of the Sower the good seed are the “ones who when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.”  The word patience in the Greek means to “live under,” rather than be a Hanna who wants to run and hurry and thereby scare away a possible “catch.”  To “live under” is to allow God the time and space to teach us what we need to learn, rather than us telling God what we want.

God never seems to be in a hurry, only we humans have that character flaw.  Perhaps next to love, patience is God’s hardest gift for us to receive.

Random Thoughts from Whitefish, MT

 

dockThese have been emotion-filled, event-filled, God-filled days.  This past Saturday was our day retreat “Spirit-Walking.”  During that retreat we sought to listen to God’s call upon our lives and learn how to respond to that call.  Part of listening to God’s call is to hear our deepest longings, and while I was walking in near by fields I realized that I am doing exactly what my deepest longings are.  As a pastor at Grace and leading day retreats fulfills my deepest longings.

Hafiz, a 13th century Persian poet said, “Where you are right now is where God put a circle on a map for you.”  How true.  So much of my life I have wondered, even longed to see what is around the next corner.  With such longings I never really was content in the present.  Thank you, Lord, for contentment now.

From Camano Island Lutheran Church I drove up to Immanuel Lutheran Church in Whatcom County.  This is where I served for 13 1/2 years and this past weekend they celebrated their 125th anniversary.  It was an emotion packed couple of days for me as so many memories came roaring back.  The closing Benediction sung by the Immanuel Choir was a beautiful benediction from Iona which both Diane and I loved.

Many years ago, even a couple of decades ago, I prayed that the Lord would give me the gift of tears, tears being something that is slow to come to me.  Now, so many years later the tears flowed freely and powerfully as I sat in the first row of a packed church.  Later in reflection, I asked myself “Why?”  Was it simply the memories of Diane? Yes, but more. The tears and the deep sobs were a gift from God of continued healing, healing of deep grief and sorrow, deep memories.

During my tears hands from the pew behind me were placed on my shoulders, hands of people, but hands of God’s people, hands of God himself.  Even as the tears continued so there was a peace, the deep peace of the benediction, that began to flow within me and still is present.

I am so appreciative of the benediction sung, the hands placed and the peace of God present!