There is Joy

I am weary.  Yet joyful.

I am trusting.  And joyful.

I am broken.  Yet joyful.

I am thankful.  And joyful.

I am hurting.  Yet joyful.

I am prayerful.  And joyful.

There is joy.

There really is a joy that transcends circumstances.  A joy that - in the midst of tragedy - takes root.  Near unexplainable and completely palpable.  A joy that grows deep & spreads wide.  Fills the empty places in a grieving heart full of questions.

We buried the body of the heavenborn child of dear friends today.  Friends grown dearer through this shared experience.  It was hard.  So hard.  It hurts.  So deep.

But at the same time there is joy.  

Joy, hearing the unashamed, unassailable faith of this young couple.

Joy, witnessing their incredible, supernatural strength.

Joy, trusting the providence of our Loving Father.

Joy, knowing that this dear child is already living in Glory.

Joy, anticipating a heavenly reunion with this heavenborn friend.

Joy, observing the loving boldness of those ministering.

Joy, bubbling up from the streams of living water within.

Joy, feeling the prayers & support of so many dear ones.

Joy, experiencing love as a verb in countless actions & words.

Joy, walking this tragic path with inspiring Christ followers.

If I could trade this joy for that precious boy, you know I would.  But - trusting God's providence & receiving His grace - I'll accept this joy as a gift.  My gift.  One among so many from this child, our heavenborn friend. He has changed us.  Forever.

He has shown me real, uncircumstantial, divinely given joy.

Love from Camp

You know those calls you wish never came?  The ones you can't prepare for.  The doctor with test results.  The family member with a tragedy.  The friend with an unknown illness.  The neighbor with a catastrophe.  You know the call.

Monday night during supper - I must confess - I did not take a call because I didn’t know the number & we were in the middle of the meal.  Voicemail would catch it.  Not even a minute later the same number called our home phone.  Then we knew it must be serious.  Melanie answered.

An emergency call from our children’s camp director.  A dear brother - an adult sponsor for our church kids - was just taken via ambulance to ER.  My heart sank in concern as my mind swam with possibilities.  I knew what I should do.  Who else would be available?  In the next few hours with completion of testing and doctor's consultation, confirmation arrived that I should go.  He and his wife - our other adult sponsor - needed to return home for further tests.

Wanting our girls to have a replacement sponsor as well, I called a sister from church.  Did she have any plans?  For the next four days?  Would she be willing to be the girl’s sponsor? She said yes.

Short on sleep, but ready to serve, we made the three hour drive and arrived for our kid camper’s breakfast Tuesday morning.  We shared hugs, prayers, and tears, then settled into the week.

It’s Tuesday afternoon as I write.  I am sitting here at camp.  In my cabin with no A/C.  Sweltering.  Yet I sit in joy.  The cacophony of children playing in the pool floating through my screened window.  The laughter of boys below tumbling up the steep staircase.  The assurance our kids have been reassured.  The knowledge our brother will get the best medical care from doctors who know him.

I do not write in order to make myself the hero.  Please do not read that.  I am just the pinch hitter.  I write because this could be you.  

Maybe you have been the one in crisis.  Maybe you have been the one to respond.  Maybe that crisis is now.

You know what the answer is?  The answer to make it through the crisis?  Love.  

Love is a verb.

Love serves.  Love gives.  Love sweats.  Love laughs.  Love cries.  Love hurts.  Love listens.  Love prays.

Love is parents willing to entrust their precious ones to others for a week that those children might learn more of the things of God.

Love is children leaving home with a little fear to find a lifetime full of faith.

Love is volunteers with more concerns than you know giving their week to a bunch of sweaty kids.

Love is a sister who had other plans this week out in the pool playing with kids right now.

Love is a child taking the hand of another who is homesick and walking the dirt path together.

Love is a brother laughing out loud as he throws ice water on children in the middle of a silly camp game on a hot afternoon.

This is love from children’s camp.  But love is so much more than this.

What is love in your life?  How have you given it?  When have you received it?

Call it out.  Write it down.  Pray it deep.  Live it out.

And - just in case - you are not loving or feeling loved, please join in.  Your life will never be the same when you do.

Love’s not easy.

But it’s worth it.

My Bag

I have a bag.  My bag.  It is, officially, a monogrammed - because my wife is nice like that - Land's End Square Rigger Attache.  Functional with just the right type of interior pockets.  Comfortable with soft handles, a wide shoulder strap, a big zipper & oversized zipper pulls.  Durable with heavy cotton canvas construction.  Faded with years of service.  Raggedy with... There.  I said it.

My bag doesn't just look worn out anymore.  It is worn out.  In my hand are some thick cotton threads.  And, as you can see, the threads aren't part of the handle anymore.  These poor threads are now unattached.  They came off.  My bag is starting to fall apart.  My bag is beginning to wear out.  My bag is becoming raggedy.

Forlorn from thread removal, I conducted an inspection of the entire bag.  Sadly, I must report that handle issues are not alone.  The big zipper is failing on the lower left corner.  There are holes wearing through the canvas at multiple spots on all four - or is that eight - corners.  And, as you can see, it just looks worn out too.

This is beginning of the end for my trusty old black - now brownish - bag.  Some day, maybe sooner than I'd like, it will be retired.  Maybe even trashed.  The zipper will completely fail.  One of the many small holes will catch & tear.  And you know the story: the repair will cost more than a new bag & there you have it.

Does my bag have you thinking about yourself?  Someone you know?  Something you own?  Some activity you do?  Asking the same questions & thinking the same thoughts that accompany about the beginning of the end?  And what about your acceptance of what you see in front of you?  Faded, worn, thread-bare?

When is it time to hold on?  When is it time to move on?

God, give us discernment to know.  Give us courage to act.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.  Isaiah 55:6

Uphill Downhill

We live up the hill.  One of the highest spots in Lincoln.  In hillier than you'd think Eastern Nebraska

That's caused me to think: For every hill you go down there is one to go up.

Recently my Dadometer indicated the oldest needed some time alone & it was the perfect evening for a bike ride.

Tearing out ahead of me he shouted, "I'm gonna beat you, Daddy." Here & there around the neighborhood streets we went.  Then we left the pavement behind.  Downhill into the tree farm on dirt paths we plunged.  My boy was loving it.  "Wooo-oo-oo-ooo," he exalted in bumpy path vibrato.

Turning uphill I led reminding him we could enjoy the view from the top.  Yet halfway up I heard it.  Words indistinguishable.  Tone clear.  Complaining about the hill.  My boy stopped.

Back downhill we went.  His smile returned.  We pedaled toward another adventurous off-road spot.  His tone changed exuberant.  He hollered, "This is fun!"  Reaching the creek bottom, we rested a bit in the cool.

Then uphill we went.  And, again, his tone changed.  I began to instruct: it is harder going uphill; we shift gears; keep pedaling; accept slower forward progress; but we keep going; we get there.

When we reached to top of Captain Underpants Hill - yes, thats the name my kids have given a statue on a hill nearby our home - we stopped again.  This time we needed a little lesson.  Son & Father both had something to learn.

"Buddy you were having so much fun a few minutes ago.  What changed?"

"The hill.  I don't like the hill."

"I know it's hard to go up hills, but you made it up.  You're here."


"You gotta go uphill before you can go downhill, Buddy.  Life is like that."

In a split second I'm thinking to myself, "Remember this the next time you are struggling with something, Mister Daddy Man.  If you are gonna enjoy the downhill, you gotta work the uphill."

Life doesn't come equipped with ski lifts.  Elevators or escalators either.  Life does take plenty of work.

Questions from the Storm

Scottsbluff, Nebraska.  Almost Wyoming.  I had a conference there this week.  Beautiful country.  Big sky, rolling plains, semi-arid, grasslands.  And crazy cool rock formations.  As a runner & outdoor lover, I was looking forward to the chance to get run trails in Scotts Bluff National Monument & Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area.  Monday evening, after waiting out that afternoon's thunderstorm,  I “ran the rock” as a friend said of the imposing Scotts Bluff.  Tuesday evening, with storms clouds to the south looking as if they’d blow to the east, I set out to run the longer, trickier Wildcat Hills.

Near perfect.  Sixty degrees & breezy, I exulted in the single-track through forests, across meadows & along rock formations.  About an hour into my run, at the farthest point out from my car, I was greeted by dark clouds creeping over the hills as I turned south.  Five minutes later I stopped to compose the photo above.  A few minutes past that I was hunkered under a cedar-treed ledge as torrents of rain unleashed.  Then hail.  Drenched already, I prayed that the hail would let up so I might run for cover in a shelter house I believed was up the now slick hillside above me.

The hail subsided.  I thanked God & charged up the hill reaching the welcomed shelter soaked to the bone.  There, thankful for three walls & a roof, I waited for the rain to stop.  I prayed, sang, thought, & moved around to stay warm.  An hour later.  Just about dried out.  The rain stopped.  I took the cue & ran the sticky access road as quickly as I could one mile back to my car.  Reaching the parking lot, the sky opened up once more.  But I made it.  Thankful for the beauty of creation.  Thankful for the adventure.  Thankful for the ability to run.  Thankful for God’s grace.  Even in rain & hail.

Life is like my Wildcat Hills run.  Ups & downs.  Beautiful & fearsome.  Smooth & rocky.  Gorgeous & ugly.  Hot & cold.  Exhilarating & painful.  Breezy & stormy.

Was there ever a moment in that run when God didn’t know where I was?  What I was doing?  That He loved me?  Was there ever a moment in which He could not control the natural forces He created?  Yet, for whatever reason, he allowed me to experience every minute of it.  And I wonder, why is it so easy for me to doubt God’s love or question His purpose in the hard times?  Yet I am not so quick to acknowledge His blessing in the good times?  Why can’t I accept the storms as part of life?  Seek the shelter I can?  Make the best of the time?  And ask God what He wants me to learn from it?